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Swallow book:

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the United States on the use of the

http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924028149221

THE SWALLOW BOOK
THE STORY OF THE SWALLOW TOLD IN LEGENDS, FABLES FOLK SONQS, PROVERBS, OMENS AND RIDDLES OF MANY LANDS

GATHERED BY

..•_,.
;,

DR.

UNIVERSITY OF PALERMO

GIUSEPPE PITRE —

;;|"
'"i.

!,-

^

t

RENDERED INTO ENGLISH AND ARRANGED FOR THE USE OF OUR BOYS AND GIRLS
BY

ADA WALKER CAMEHL

NEW YORK :

CINCINNATI

:•

CHICAGO

AMERICAN BOOK COMPANY

'-J

TO

GIUSEPPINA D'ALIA PITRE
This
little

book, dear, was to have been dedicated to your mother,

when

she, alas,

was snatched from us

in the terrible disaster of

Mes-

sina, while

she was transcribing for

me

notes and material concerning

the Swallow.

Now
in your

that your dear

mother and father

live in you,

I

oflfer

this

book
you
you

name, sweet Giuseppina, as an augury of bright days
care.
little

for

— our happiness and our
May
the

good-omened

bird of gladness

and of joy be
life

to

a messenger of perennial spring, and may your
happiness invoked for

be always strewn

with the roses, gladdened with the golden dreams, crowned with the
it

by

YOUR GRANDFATHER.

TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE
Because
disposition,
of her sociable habits

and her friendly
times has

the

swallow from

earliest
all

been observed and beloved by
the world.

the peoples of
au-

Her springtime comings and her

tumn
in

goings, they have celebrated in proverb and

song; her physical features, they have made
;

the subject of legend and of fable
of her peculiar habits, they

and

for each

have found an expla-

nation in their

own

lively fancies

and imaginations.

The Folk
the
torrid

Literature of nearly every country in
icy

world — from

Lapland

in

the

north to
Siberia

Africa in the south, from eastern

to the prairie lands of our a share,

own West

— contributes

sometimes

large,

sometimes

small, to these

swallow traditions.

They

are replete with the art-

lessness, with the spiritual faith of the various peo-

ples

— and

at times they are fraught with
literature

wisdom.

This swallow

has

been gathered by

the eminent Folklore scholar. Dr. Giuseppe Pitre.

As reward
five

of his

many

years of painstaking and

loving research in this field (resulting in twenty-

published volumes), the
S

Italian

Government

6

TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE

established for Dr. Pitre a Folklore Chair in the

University of Palermo, his native

city.

These
the

tales,

many

of

which

tell

of the love of

children of strange lands for the

swallow,

I

have rendered into English and arranged for the
children of America, with the hope that the knowl-

edge

of

them may serve

to create in our

growing

generation a tender and cherishing interest, not

only in this friendly

little

bird,

but also in every

other creature of our feathered kingdom.

With

the exception of the

Folk Songs, I have
Italian.

translated this
I

work from the

The songs

have taken from the different languages in which

they had their origin, and in the rhyming of them
I

have endeavored

to preserve, so far as possible,

the form
verse.
I

as well as the
of

meaning

of the original

For two

the songs, from the

Greek,

have used the English version of the charming

writer

upon Folklore, the Countess Evelyn MarFor the

tinengo-Cesaresco.

have taken the translation

Roumanian song I by Henry Phillips, Jr.

For assistance

in

arranging the material of this

book

I

am

deeply indebted to

my

sister.

Miss Flor-

ence Mercy Walker, and to Mr. Brayton L. Nichols.

ADA WALKER CAMEHL.

CONTENTS
CHAPTEB
I.

/

^

THE SWALLOW BOOK
CHAPTER
THE SWALLOW
I

Who
little

does not

know and

love the friendly
after

swallow?

Each year

her long the south

absence in the

warm

lands
the

of

she comes to us
the flowers, and she
chatter that spring

with
tells
is

sunshine and

us with her merry

on the way.
of swal-

There are about seventy species

lows scattered over the entire world, but only five of these are, to be found in the

United States, and
our

six

in
tell

Europe.

The

swallow whose story we
is

in these pages

common barn swallow, whose summer home is under the eaves of our barns

and outbuildings. In Europe she is called the house or chimney swallow, and there

lO

THE SWALLOW

she builds her nest not only in barns and
ruined buildings, but also in the chimneys,

and sometimes even inside the rude stone
houses of the peasants, or farm people of
the country districts.

This swallow has a graceful and pretty
body.

Her back

is

black and shiny, with

deep violet reflections

;

and her throat and

breast are tinged with dull red.

Her wings
clavs/s

are

long

and pointed, and keen
to
is

tail

forked,
tiny,

very short and weak, and eyes
liant

bril-

black,

spy an insect a
almost always on
swiftly

long
the

way

off.

She

wing and darts about very

and

THE SWALLOW
gracefully, feeding

II

upon the
nature
the

insects

which

she catches

in the air.

When
spring,

drowsy
then

awakes
swallows
before.

in

the

come

to

the

places they left long

months
great

How
from
lead

do

they

cover the

distances

their

winter
?

homes?

What

guides

them

What

signs point the

way

in their

long journeys?

No

one knows.

No
with

one
cer-

has ever been able to discover
tainty.

So much

is

sure,

however

— they
days

go
?

and they come.
distant
lands,

Where have
where

they been

They have been under

other skies, in far

sunny

have

changed into starry nights, and rosy dawns
into golden sunsets.

Nature has showered

upon them smiles of sunshine, abundant blessings they have food, kindly welcome had to renounce when called away by the

longing for the old nests and the joys of
rearing their young.
It

was once thought

that swallows were

12

THE SWALLOW
cover great distances of sea withrest.

able to

out stopping to

But

rest

is

neces-

sary for them, and

they stop then

now and

lightupon houses or upon the sails and rigging of

ships,

when they

are

obliged to pass over

long stretches of

sea.

Though
a direct
line,
it

their
is,

course might be in

never

for the need of getting food

makes
flight of

them

break

their

a sudden and turn
that, as

this

way and

they
off

spy insects a long way

off

upon which to right and
all

to feed.

They

dart
of

to left in pursuit

them, and so greatly lengthen their journey.

By no means
the

of

them are able

to endure

terrible fatigues

of the flight.

Many

THE SWALLOW

13

become exhausted and
else fall to the deck of

perish in the sea, or

some passing

vessel,

where they arouse the tender

pity of those

on board.

Only the youngest and the strong-

est succeed in reaching the goal of the old

familiar nesting places.

The
homes
pair

returning swallows often find that the

winter's storms
;

have wrought havoc
their nests

in their

but

if

any of

have been
re-

injured or destroyed they are quick to

or to

build

anew.

Then, after the

wearisome journey and the home building,
follow the courtships of the birds and the

sweet
the

idylls of the

baby brood.
is

And soon

warm

air of spring

perfumed with

14

THE SWALLOW
the busy
little

flowers, alive with

pilgrims,

gladdened with their meri-y chatter and their
fleeting song.

The
curious

nests which these swallows build are

works

of

art.

The

outside

they

make
mix
and

of

mud, which they
river bank,

fetch

from some

pond or
gether.

and with the

mud

they
it

hairs

and

bits

of straw to hold

to-

The

inside they line with soft leaves

feathers.

There are two settings of eggs
first

each year, the

of five or six eggs, the

second

of

three.

The eggs

are

white,

speckled with dull red spots.

Their nests

they place, not apart by themselves on
lonely tree top like
side

some
com-

many

other birds, but
their

by side with the nests of
in

panions

a

little

colony under the eaves

of our barns, or along the

beams
is

just under

the roof.

In certain lands of southern Eulittle

rope this sociable

bird

allowed to

build her nest in the

windows

of the houses,

and

in the crevices of the tiles of the roof.
it

In the Orient she sometimes even puts

in-

THE SWALLOW

IS

side the door, and by so doing she brings, as

the people believe, good fortune to the dwellers within.

Travelers in that eastern land

JT^
I

'

^^% ^"^
^^'

have brought back
strange stories
il-

y

(#

lustrating this sociable

habit of the swallow, one of the

strangest being that of a noted Frenchman,

who
"

visited
:

wrote

Asia

in 1844.

This

is

what he

The swallow has

so

much

love for

man

i6

THE SWALLOW
in

and so great confidence
his palaces

him

that she

dwells not only in the eaves and porticoes of

and

in the

porches of his houses,

but she penetrates even to his bedchambel

and establishes herself upon his bed.
I

This

saw, myself,

many

times, in the city

and

in

the country, but

more often in the country. I saw those good people, visited by this chosen creature of the good God, surrounding the bird families with every care, opening

windows in the morning to let the parent birds go out and gather food, tolerating the
the
filth

they

made .iu

the room,

upon the

furni-

ture and the bedclothing, and spending hours

together in observing and showing to others
the doings of the old birds, the the

number

of

young and the progress of their education. And what I saw took place everywhere
here."
^

Let us

now

look at the baby swallows.

Four or
all

five little

heads are peeping over the

edge of the
the
little

nest,

while a lively chirping from

throats in concert announces the

THE SWALLOW
arrival of either the father or
bird.

17

the

mother

Cautiously

the

parent

approaches,

chirping contentedly the while and bringing

the food in

its bill.

It flutters to

the edge of

the nest, alights there, and drops the morsel
into the

open mouth of the
receiving
his

first

youngster,
turns

i|

who,

after

portion,

i

his back, while the fond parent carefully

picks
in

up

all

the leavings
flies

the nest,
little

off

a

distance

arid

drops them

to

the ground.
it

Then

goes away

in

search of

more

food.
it

After a while

re-

turns and repeats the

scene with the second, with the third, and so

on

to the

last one.
first

Then

it

begins anew
until
all

with the
satisfied.

and continues
it

are

So

does every day from morntill

ing until night,

at last the fledglings are

able to feed themselves.
CAM. SW. BK.

—2

i8

THE SWALLOW

Then begins another
lings are taught
to
fly.

training

— the

nest-

Let us look on
giving this lesson
to
their

here also.

We

see both of the old birds

young.
they
their
their

Notice
cheer
{'
I

how
on

"

pupils

with

voices;

1

food a

little

how way
to

they offer them
off,

then slowly

move
sters

it

farther back as the young-

approach

take

it;

how
push
they

gently

and
of

anxiously
the nest;

they

them out

how

them in the air in order to encourage them with the sight of help always at hand; and finally, how they carry on the lesson with such
play around before

expressive chatter which sounds like caresses,,
exhortation, reproof, and applause
all in

one.

As

the

guests,

summer grows warm, our little who dislike intense heat as well as
first

severe cold, break out into their

gay

THE SWALLOW

19

dawn when every ered songster is silent. They
notes at early

other feathleave
their

warm
haste;

nests and ascend aloft to the infinite

spaces of heaven; they descend with dizzy

they

whirl;

they- soar;

they

skim
they

the low grasses and the shining surfaces of
lake or stream
;

and with noisy

cries

meet, they separate, they dart

away

— and
a

then they turn to meet again,

ten, twenty,

hundred times
out

— now

appearing,

pearing like flashes of lightning.
shrill cries as

now disapThey send
if

they whirl and soar, and

they stop for a moment, impatient of
their trills

rest,

and quavers sound

like questions

and answers

in a brisk conversation.

Swallows, besides being on good terms

20

THE SWALLOW

with man, are kindly in their dealings with

one another.

If

one of them

is

injured,

it is

no reason for leaving her alone to

suffer.

Many

incidents

might be told which would
trait.

illustrate this

good

We will

relate but
in the

one, the story of an injured
streets of Paris.
tells
:

swallow

This

is

what an eyewitness

"

A swallow, through some accident, I don't
what, was one day caught by the foot

know

in a slipknot of

a rope which

had been

stretched to the eaves of one of the public

She had tried to free herself and then, becoming exhausted, was hanging from the rope, crying aloud and now and then making fluttering and vain attempts to get away. All the swallows round about, to the number of several thousands, had gathered around her. They made a dense cloud,
buildings.

and and

all

the time they cried aloud in alarm

pity.

After a while they seemed to hold
evi-

a noisy consultation and one of them
dently hit

upon a plan

to free their

com-

THE SWALLOW

21

.

<:^

•'•

:^

^

panion

and
it

to to
'at

make
others.

known
For
all

the

once
after

they set to work.

One
it

another flew swiftly to the

knot and gave
with her
bill

a

blow

in the

same

spot.

In about half an hour the string

was broken and the prisoner
at
liberty.

set
re-

The swallows

mained about the place
ing as
selves

until

evening, flying about and chatterif

congratulating themof their maneuver."
at last the gentle to love,

upon the success
passes,

The summer
little

and

birds,

whom we

have learned

22

THE SWALLOW
for their departure.

make ready
house
tops,

Upon

the

along the eaves, on the walls and

the fences,

among

the cane

fields,

along the

edges of streams, and upon the telegraph
wires, they

gather in large flocks,

all

the
are

time

chattering

and chirping.

What

they saying?

No

doubt they are talking

about the coming journey, and the older
ones are instructing the younger about
If
it.

we could understand the language of birds we might at this time be able to learn
where they
After
go,

the

dangers

which

beset

them, and the hardships they must endure.

much
start.

noisy chatter at last they are

ready to

The
and

signal

is

given

first

one, then another, ten, a hundred, an army,
rise into the air
circle

around as

if

to

take their bearings.

Then they

set out in a

compact mass and are soon
black cloud.
All

lost to sight in a

summer long

these gay

little

guests

have been with

us, enlivening the cool shad-

ows about our houses, our

barns, our public

THE SWALLOW

23

monuments, our country
they go

places
"

— and

now
falls

away

to regions

where never

the snow, where the land

is

never hardened
to the northern

by

frost."

Our swallows go

countries of South

America and
seas.

to the

is-

lands about our tropical

lows of Europe
of

fly

south to the
the

The swalmonuments
of

Egypt and mosques of Asia.

to

minarets

the

4^'^'

24

CHAPTER
THE SWALLOW
IN

II

LEGEND AND FABLE

The
legends

swallow
that
cycle,

is

connected with so

many
is

from them might be formed
all

a true

of
?

"Why."

Why

the

swallow's

note sad

a black mantle?
tail ?

Why does Why has she

she wear
a forked
?

Why

has she a reddish breast

Why

Why does she live in warm climates? Why does she build her nest in windows ? Why does the swallow go about unmolested ? Why is she blessed? Why does she dwell with man? Why did the northern princesses seek the swallows ? Why is the swallow superior to
does she
twitter,

and nOt sing?

other birds and animals

?

Let us see

if

we

can answer

all

these

Whys.
But
first,

we must
25

take note of three

26

THE SWALLOW
from one

legends, from countries far remote

another, which

tell

us

upon
ends,

the

earth.

how the swallow came The oldest of these legimportant in the
his-

the one most

tory of the swallow,

comes

to us

from the
its

ancient land of Greece, and has
in

origin

those

times

when gods and godesses
slopes
of
Hellas,
to

peopled the green

and

when

fables

were

recounted

interpret

the mysteries of the natural world.
the Greek legend.

This

is

The

Origin of the
A

Swallow

Legend of Greece

Once upon a time Pandion, King of Athens, had two daughters named Procne
and Philomela,
daughter,

whom

he dearly loved.

One

Procne, he gave in marriage to

Tereus, King of Thrace,
to

who
his

took her awa^

malce her

home

in

own
life

country.

Many

years of happy married

went by
of

for Procne, but ever

she kept the

memory

her dear sister Philomela in her heart, and

IN

LEGEND AND FABLE

27

the hope one day to see her again.
oveit'come

At

last,

by her longing, Procne asked her

Athens and bring back her sister for a visit. Tereus at once set out, and upon reaching Athens he begged the old
to
to

husband

go

King Pandion to allow Philomela to accompany him to his home in the north country.

After

much

persuasion Pandion consented,

and Tereus

set

out upon the sea with the
fell

young
very

girl.

While on the voyage he
in love

much

with his pretty

sister-in-

law, but in return she only scorned his affection.
sister,

Then, instead of taking her to her

Tereus led Philomela into a remote

part of his

kingdom and

there he kept her a

prisoner for

many months.

At

last,

he went

alone to his wife with the tale that her father

had refused
him.

to allow her sister to return with

The unhappy Philomela passed
life in

a wretched

the place where Tereus had confined
in vain

her,

and

she sought to free herself

28

THE SWALLOW

At length she found a way to send word to her sister. She embroidered upon a peplos, or linen robe,
from her prison.
the story of her misfortune, and sent the

robe to Procne.

Upon
the

receiving
tale,

the gar-

ment
the

Procne

read

and,
in

taking
of

advantage of a public feast

honor
that

god Bacchus, she pretended
and
hastened
to

she
city

was mad, made her way outside the
walls

her

sister.

She
the

found Philomela

in her prison, set her free,

and took her

at

once to her

home

in

royal palace of Tereus.

From

that

day the two

sisters

thought

only of vengeance for the cruel deed, and
they, found a revenge so terrible as almost
to surpass belief.

Procne had a
Itys.

little

son

by the name of
to
kill

The

sisters resolved

the

boy.

As soon
to
kill

as

Tereus

dif-

covered the plot he seized an ax and

pur-

sued the two

sisters

them.

As

he

was almost upon them, they prayed to the gods to change them into birds. Procne

IN
at

LEGEND AND FABLE

29

once became a nightingale and Philomela
swallow.

a a

Tereus was also changed into

hawk, which chases

other birds.
In
this

manner the
th(

Greeks related theorigin
of the swallow and of
nightingale.
turies,

In later cen-

the Latin poets of

Rome
this

(Horace, Vergil, and

the rest) often
legend.

made

reference to

Sometimes they
in the

sang of Procne as a nightingale, as
original

Greek version, but more often they
the

reversed

ending

of

the

legend

and

referred to her as a swallow,

and

to Philomela as a nightingale.

Thus Horace,
in

in

an Ode to Vergil

which
Sabine

he invites the poet to pay

him a
has

visit at

his

farm, assures Vergil that pleasant weather

come by saying

that

the "Thracian

30

THE SWALLOW
"

winds, the companions of spring
ing,

are blowfor

and "the unhappy
" is

bird,

mourning

Itys

building her nest.
of

The

poets

England and of America
of

follow the Latin version
their frequent
birds,

the legend in

mention of these two favorite
Philo-

and when they sing of "sad
or of
"

mel

"

Santa Filomela

"

they mean

the nightingale.

Why
she
sits

is

the swallow's note sad?

If

you

will listen to the twitter of the

swallow as
" Itys,

alone upon a beam, you will hear
herself
:

her say over and over to
Itys, Itys."

Is

it

not poor Procne calling
little

and grieving for her
evening
the

boy?
of

And

the

nightingale, sad Philomela,
at in

as she warbles

tree

tops

southern

Europe, does she not put into her song
real

sobs of mourning?

These sad bird notes have many times
been interpreted as expressions of grief by

our greatest writers.

If

we

look into the

Book

of the Prophet

Isaiah,

we

find

that

1

IN

LEGEND AND FABLE

3

he likened his cry to the voice of the swal-

low
I

:

"

Like a crane or a swallow, so did

chatter."

Dante caught
far-off
it

in the

swallow's

note the echo of

mourning, and he

has passed

on to us

in the exquisite lines

with which he prefaced the description of
his

awakening

in

the Flowery Valley on

the Mountain of Purgatory:
Just at the hour

when her sad

lay begins

The

little

swallow, near unto
in

t}ie

morning,

Perchance

memory

of her former woes,


when
tell

But

this old tale of

pagan Greece does not
later times,

suffice for the people of

they wish to relate the origin of their favorite

bird.

The devout
is

folk

of

Spain

the following pretty legend, in

which the

Boy Jesus

said to have fashioned the first

swallows with his

own hands

:

The Creation of the Swallow
A
It
little
Spanish Legend

was on a Saturday, and Jesus, then a boy, went out to play with his compan-

32

THE SWALLOW

ions, little like himself.

He

took some white
little

clay

and with
to dry.

it

he made

birds with
in

outspread wings, and he put them

the

sun

A

Pharisee then passed that

way and
work
the
to
is

was angry

to see the children at

upon a Saturday, which day
Jewish Sabbath
"h.
;

and he began and
to

trample
those
X^.

upon

destroy

f*
,

little

clay birds.
little

_^

clapped his

But Jesus hands and

the birds at once took flight

^'•'^

and flew away.

Then, upon the house of the Child Jesus, with some of the same clay from which they

IN

LEGEND AND FABLE

33

had been made, the swallows began

to build
tiles.

their nests in the eaves of the roof of

And from
tinued to
little

that

day

to this they

have con-

make their homes upon

the

humble

houses of the poor and to bring to

them peace and good fortune. When Jesus was on his way to be crucified upon Calvary, the disconsolate little swallows followed him with the holy women, and when he hung upon the cross they
pulled the thorns from out the crown which

had been placed upon
pierced his sacred head.

his

brow and which
at

When

he died the swallows

once put on

mourning, covering themselves with a black
mantle, which they wear to this day.
in

And
:

Spain there

is

sung a

little

couplet

memory

of this pious service, which runs

in

On

the mount of Calvary,

The swallows, pitying, Drew out ten thousand thorns From the poor Christ, suffering.

Our

third legend
CAM. SW. BK.

which has

to

do with the

—3

34

THE SWALLOW

origin of the swallow

comes from the Navaho

Indian tribes of our
In
it

own western

country.
to

we

find the swallows, before

coming

earth,

occupying one of those heavens which

so often figure in Indian traditions.

Navaho Origin Legend
The Story of the Emergence

They went
reached
the

in

circles
It

upward

till

they

sky.
;

was

smooth.

They
risen,

looked

down

but there the water had
else but

and there was nothing

water there.

While they were
and

flying around,

one having a
there, to the

blue head thrust out his head from the sky
called to them, saying, " In
is

eastward, there

a hole."
it

They
up

entered the

hole and went through
of the second world.

to the surface

The
People.

blue one belonged to the Swallow.

A

great

The Swallow People lived there. many of their houses, rough and
all

lumpy, lay scattered

about.
at

Each tapered
part
there

toward

the

top,

and

that

IN

LEGEND AND FABLE
for

35
liiany

was a hole

entrance.

A

great

people approached and gathered around the
strangers, but they said nothing.

The

first

world
into

was

red in color; the

second world,

which the people had

now

entered,

couriers,

They sent out two a Locust and a White Locust, to
was
blue.
if

the east, to explore the land and see

there

were

in

it

any people
in

like themselves.

At

the end of two days the couriers returned,

and said that
great

one day's travel they had

reached the edge of the world
cliff

— the top of a
but that they
ani-

which arose from an abyss whose
;

bottom they could not see
found
in all their

journey no people, no
trees,

mals of any kind, no
ground.

no grass, no

sagebrush, no mountains, nothing but bare
level

The same

couriers were then

dispatched in turn to the south, to the west,

and

to the north.

journey two days,

They were gone on each and when they returned
had reached the

related, as before, that they

edge of the world, and discovered nothing

36
^

THE SWALLOW
but
Here,

an

uninhabited
then,

waste.

X
^
^-f;:'

the

strangers
in the cen-

found themselves
ter of

a vast barren plain where

there

was

neither

food nor a
the cou-

kindred people.
riers

When

had

returned

from

^
^""^

the north, the swallows
visited the

"

camp

of the

newly arrived people, and
asked

them why they had sent out the
couriers to the east.
"

v'v

We

sent

them

out,"
" to

was the reply, see what was
and
to
if

in the land,

see

there

were

any people

like our*

selves here."

"And what
"

did your couriers

tell

you?"

asked the swallows.

They

told us that they

came

to the

edge

:

IN

LEGEND AND FABLE

37
liv-

of the world, yet found no plant and no

ing thing in

all

the land."

(The same questions were asked and the

same answers given
the compass.)
"

for the other points of

They spoke
"

the truth," said the Swallow

People.

Had you

asked us in the begin-

ning what the land contained, we would have
told

you and saved you

all

your trouble.

Until you came, no one has ever dwelt in
all this

land except ourselves."

The people then said to the swallows "You understand our language and are much like us. You have legs, feet, bodies, Why canheads, and wings as we have.
not your people and
friends
"
" ?
it

our

people

become

Let

be as you wish," said the swal-

lows, and both parties began at once to treat

each other as members of one

tribe.

They

mingled one among the other, and addressed

one another by the terms of

relationship, as

my

brother,

my sister, my

father,

my

son, etc.

38

THE SWALLOW

They

all

lived happily

and pleasantly
but

to-

gether for twenty-three days,

on

the

twenty-fourth, one of the strangers -was rude
to the wife, of the

next day
said
to

when
the
friends,

it

Swallow Chief, and the became known, the Chief
:

strangers

"

We

have treated
such
lower

you as
kindness.

and thus you return our
doubt
not
that
for

We

crimes you were
world, and
is

driven

from

the

now you must leave this. This our land, and we will have you here no
Besides, this
is

longer.

a bad land.

People
if

are dying here every day, and, even

we

spare you, you cannot live here long."

The Locusts took the lead on hearing this. They soared upwards. The others followed,
and
all

soared and circled

till

they reached

the sky.

Let us

now
tail ?

see

if

we can
find the

solve the

Whys
this

concerning the swallow.
a forked

First,

why

has she

We

answer to

Why

in several curious legends, the first of

IN

LEGEND AND FABLE

39

which comes
in Asia.

to us

from the land of Siberia
folk tell

There the
forked.

why

the swal-

low's

tail is

Why

the Swallow's Tail
A Legend

is

Forked

of Eastern Siberia
is

A species
and
very
as

of

marmot

native in Poland

in near-by Galicia, as well as in the lands
It is also

to the east as far as central Asia.

common

in

Eastern Siberia.
little

There,
called

elsewhere,

the

animal

is

Bobac.

Under the shoulder
flesh,

of the Bobac, in the

may

be found a whitish piece which
eaten, for
it

must not be
the

is

the remains of

man who was

transformed into Bobac

by the wrath of the Evil Spirit. For you must know, O stranger from a far land, that all the Bobacs were once upon a time men,

who
most

lived

by hunting.
all

And

they were the

skillful of

hunters.

But with the

passing of time they became such braggarts

40

THE SWALLOW
to

as

boast

that

they could
shot,

kill

on the

wing, with the
ever.

first

any bird whatso-

These boasts aroused the wrath of the Evil Spirit, and he at once went among
them, and ordered the best marksman to a
kill

swallow
fired

in

flight.

The
it

hunter

and

hit the bird,

but instead of killing
shot

he
of

away only the middle
tail.

the bird's

Then, as a punishment for
their boasting, the

Evil Spirit changed

all

those hunters into

Bobacs.

And from

that

day to

this,

swal-,

lows' tails have been forked.

Also from eastern Europe comes another
ancient legend, giving another reason for the

forked

tail

of the swallow.

in

legend and fable

41

Why

the Swallow's Tail
A
Circassian Legend

is

Forked

In the good old times, Solomon, son of David, ruled over
all

things.

He

understood

the language of animals and of plants, and
to each animal he assigned a given food
to the serpent

he assigned the blood of man.
to resign him-

But man, knowing not how
against the allotment.

self to the assaults of the serpent, cried

out

King Solomon, impressed with the
complaints of

just
,

man, one day gathered
field
all

to-

gether in a large

living creatures,

and he began
mals
all

to question

man.

The

ani-

began to talk

in a

loud voice, but
After hear-

Solomon
ing him,

listened only to

man.

Solomon decreed

that the tiniest of

the animals, the mosquito, should go about

and

find out

which was the sweetest and

most

delicate blood of creation,

and that

this

should be assigned as food to the serpent.

On New

Year's

Day

another reunion was


42

THE SWALLOW
^ ordered

by Solomon,

^

y^

and the mosquito was
on
his

way

thither,

when on the street he met a swallow, and, "Where are you
going?"
asked.

the

swallow

"To
find to

the reunion of Solomon, as you know."
it.

"I had forgotten

And what

did you

be the sweetest blood?"

"That of man," answered the mosquito.

"That

of

— ?" asked the swallow, feigning
replied the mosquito,

not to have understood.

"Of man,"
opened
his

and as he

mouth, the swallow with one peck

pulled out his tongue.

In the reunion, the mosquito, upon being
questioned, could express himself only

by,

making the sound Xssss.
stepped up and interpreted
of the frog," at the
it

The swallow thus, " The blood

same time observing that she had heard this answer from the mouth

IN

LEGEND AND FABLE

43

of the

mosquito before he became dumb.
that the serpent

Thereupon Solomon decreed should feed upon the frog.

As the animals were
pent,

separating after the
ser-

meeting, the swallow passed near to the

who, furious over the ugly
he had received, made a
her.

affront

grab at

The swallow was

on the watch and quickly flew
away, but not before the
serpent had pulled
feathers

some

from the
of

middle
her
tail.

From
forked.

that day the swallow's

tail

has been

A similar reason for the
in the following legend

forked

tail

we

find

from eastern France.

44

THE SWALLOW

Why

the Swallow has a Forked Tail
A
Legend of France

After the
left

Deluge the animals, as they
world for a food which would
each
according
wily

the Ark, bethought themselves to look
in the

about
please
to

them,
taste.

his

The
in-

serpent sent out the

mosquito with

structions to find
out,

by tasting.

which one of
sweetest blood.

all

living creatures

had the

When
man

the mosquito,

who

found the blood of

better than that of

the animals, came back to render account,
of his mission, the swallow with

one peck

plucked out his tongue.

The

serpent was

furious at the affront and seized the poor

swallow by the

tail

to

devour

her.

But only

IN

LEGEND AND FABLE

45
tail

the feathers of the center of the bird's

remained

in

his

mouth.

Those

feathers
tail,

never grew again in the swallow's
the mosquito
to
is

and

dumb
legend

to this day, able only

make

his

zum,

zzzz, zzz.
tells

The following
the swallow's
breast
is

us not only

tail is

forked, but also

why why her
rather

red.

It

shows our bird

in

an unfavorable

light.

Why

the Swallow has a Forked Tail AND a Red Breast

a

Swedish and Norwegian Legend

Once upon a time
in

there

was a young

girl

the service

of

a

Fairy.

One day
For

the

girl stole

from her mistress a spool of red
this theft

thread and a pair of scissors.

she was changed into the bird called the

swallow

;

and

also, as

a further punishment,

she was condemned to carry about with her
forever the signs of the objects she had stolen

— the spool of
and the scissors

red thread upon her throat,
in her
tail.

46

THE SWALLOW

And
when
will

ever since then, in the
is
if

summer

time,

the swallow

alone and pensive,

upon a beam, you listen carefully, you
sitting

hear her repeat sadly and slowly, over and

— my mistress — has — her spool — of red thread — her spool — of red thread — and — her — scissors!"
over:
lost lost

"My mistress — has

The swallow has no song Upon the wing she gives
ever does

like other birds.

a

shrill

cry, in

repose she chatters and chirps, but scarcely

she utter a sound which might*

be called a song.

To

account
folk

for

this

peculiar

trait

the

German
legends.

tell

the following three pretty

IN

LEGEND AND FABLE

47

Why

the Swallow does not Sing
A German
,"

Legend
"
'

Once Upon
a

^

f

time

the

swallow was a singing bird, and sang a

song as melodious
' '

as the nightingale's.

=-

But

after a time

she

became weary of dwelling
in

the

lonely
there

forests

where
to

was no one
ful voice,

hear

and admire her

beauti-

except the

busy

peasant
little

boy
shep-

^
2.

and the innocent
swallow
then
in

herdess tending her flock.
left

The
humble
and

her

home
into

the the

country
big
city.

went

What happened

there?

In the

city all the people

were so busy

'

48

THE SWALLOW
had time
little

that no one

to listen to the bird's
little

divine voice, so

by

she forgot her

song, and she learned instead to be an architect

and

to build her

wonderful

mud

nests.

Why
A

the Swallows do not Sing

Legend of Flanders and of the German Tyrol

Once upon a time the swallows knew

well

how
now.

to sing

and

to find their food

surface of the earth, instead of

upon the on the wing as

When

Jesus was suffering upon the
cross,

many swal-

^^^

^ ^^ %^^

Z^\S\^^"
^^
^^

z^x

>r.

'X.-

.

came and rested upon the arms of the cross
lows

and they
a
loud

set

up
of
so.

singing,

v^

^

The
Tesus

agony

*t

^

was

Z

V
:-=

%».

great that the songs of the
birds

became

unbearable

'V:

to him,

and he said

to them,


with

j(#i*v*

"

Because you come and annoy

me

IN

LEGEND AND FABLE
this

49

your song, from
food for you."

time on you shall only

chatter and the land shall contain no

more

And from

that day to this the swallows

have

riot

known how

to sing,

and they have fed only on
the wing.

The Swallows and
THE Swans
From the German

One
of

day

some
in the

swallows
presence

were singing

some

swans.

The
to

swallows

boasted

the

swans

:


"

We sing, as you
s e e,
f

---

or

^-°
^^-

the pleas-

ure of

all

^ people,
while you
~--"

sing for your

CAM. SW. BK. — 4

50

THE SWALLOW
pleasure alone, and that rarely and in

own
"

lonely places."

But

it

is

better," replied the

swans,

" to

sing
than,
for

little

and well for a few choice souls
you, to

like

sing

much and

poorly

all."

Why
mates

do the swallows choose

in

which

to live?

We
To

warm cliknow that at
explain
this

the approach of the cold season they migrate

each year to the south.
habit

we have
folk.

a fanciful legend of the Rou-

manian

Why

the Swallow Lives Climates
A Legend
of Roumania

in

Warm

Saint
servant,

Domenica had a maidand one day before go-,

ing out she told the girl to pre-

pare her dinner and to be very
careful to get
it

neither too hot

nor too cold.


IN

LEGEND AND FABLE

SI

The maid
hot that
it

forgot the instruction, and

when

hermistress sat downat table the dinnerwas so

burned her mouth.

The mistress was very
angry, and said to her

servant

:

"Because you
have disobeyed me,
I,

for

your

negli-

gence,

change

you
as
fo

into a bird.

And

further

punishment

getting

my
I

food too

warm,

condemn
live

you
in

to

always

warm climates." And the servant"^
into the swallow,
in lands

^
and forever

was changed
after
is

she has lived

where the climate

mild.

From

the peasant folk of northern France

comes the answer to our next question: " Why " do swallows build their nests in windows ?

52

the swallow

Why

Swallows Build their Nests Windows
A
Legend of Brittany

in

mother swallow who was recovering from a long illness, and who had been abandoned by her husband, went for three days
without food, so as not to cool the eggs

A

upon which she was
little

sitting.

Along came

a

mouse and asked if he might stay all night. The swallow told him that he might
stay in the nest
if

he would promise to keep

the eggs warm.

The

little

on the eggs, but behold,
hatched, out

mouse then sat when they were
bats
!

came some

little

When
little

the

poor mother bird saw the ugly

creatures she felt so badly that she died of
grief.

Then
greatly

all

the swallows in the neighlittle

borhood gathered around the

dead body.*

They

mourned the
little

loss of their com-

panion, and after they had buried her they

took charge of the

orphans.

Then

the

Queen

of the swallows decreed that because

IN

LEGEND AND FABLE

S3

the poor dead mother had built her unfortu-

nate nest in a chimney, from that time on

swallows should be allowed to put their nests
in

windows.
she also
'^^^

And

decreed that

bats,
'^>r>.

the

little

monstrosities
in the nest,

which hatched out

should never again be able to
see by daylight.

This explains why bats are

blind 'by day, and

why swallows

build their

nests in windows.

Our

next legend gives another reason for
I

the daytime blindness of bats.

will

tell

54

THE SWALLOW
this legend in the

you

words of the

little

old

woman who
You
will

told

it

to me, in her in

home on
Tuscany;

the slopes of

Mount Amiata learn from this why

the swallow

has the right, according to the good people
in that part of Italy, not to

be molested, and

why

she must not, like other birds, be caged

or killed.
is called

And you
blessed,

will also learn

why

she

and

why

the people love to
their houses

have her

in the eaves of

—a

morning awakener and a true prophet
springtime.

of the

This

is

what she

said.

Why

the Swallows are not Molested
A Legend
of Tuscany

The good Jesus was
in the terrible

suffering on the cross

hour of his agony.
fixed

A

thorn

of the

crown which was
his
'

was piercing

eye,

upon his brow and was penetrating^
his

more deeply with every movement of weary head. A bat was flying about cross, and at that time the bat was a
like

the
bird

any

other.

Jesus called to

him: —

IN

LEGEND AND FABLE
come
to me, I pray.

55

Little bat, little bat,

And from

out

my
off,

eye, take this thorn away."

But

the bat flew

pretending that he did

not understand.
the cross.

Then a swallow
:

Jesus called to her
little


to

flew about

" Little swallow,

swallow,

come

me,

I

pray,

And

from out

my

eye, take this thorn away."

And the swallow hurried to
and searched with her
thorn, found
bill
it,

the cross, searched
for the

head of the
it

and pulled

out.

One drop
the breast
of

of blood spattered

the dear
bird,

little

as
relief

Jesus with a sigh of

looked

upon her as she gently moved away.

Then Jesus
blessed, little

said

to
!

her

:

"

May you

be

From this time on, no one shall do you harm. You shall build your nest secure under the roof of man. To him you shall be of good omen. You shall
swallow

announce with your song the hour

for

him

"

"

56

THE SWALLOW
and go to
!

to arise

labor.

Go.

May you

be

blessed

The
scorn.

bat,

who was

not far away, and

who

heard these words, then set up a screech of

"

Naughty Never more
"

little

bat

"
!

then

said

Jesus

;

shall

you
as

sing,

but you shall
just

henceforth
done.
bird

shriek
this

you have

now
rise at

From

time on you shall be a

loathsome and wild.

You

shall

but a few cubits from the earth, and only
night
time, in
in

the dark, shall
in

you
bat
1

flutter

about

abandoned houses or
Go, naughty
it

melancholy

graveyards.

little

And
bird
all
it

so

has been.

From

the

pretty

was

know.
"

became what you And the swallows became known
at first the bat

as

The birds of God." One thing I nearly forgot.
little
it

The swallow

has on her breast a

red spot, like blood

long dried.

May
?

not be a sign of this

merciful act performed for the

good Jesus

upon the

cross

IN

LEGEND AND FABLE

57

We will
tale

close this Chapter with a prettyIt is partly fairy

legend of the northland.

and partly myth, and

in

it

how

the swallows bring the

we shall learn summer to the

frozen countries of the far north.

The Scotch Princesses and the
Swallows
A Legend
of Lapland

A

certain

king of Scotland was in the

habit of having his wives strangled as soon
as a son came.

He

had already sent

five

wives into

the;

other world,

and obtained as his sixth

when he sought companion Tuigga,

the lovely daughter of the king of Ireland.

After a few months had passed, her husband

had her shut up
of an old

in a

tower under the guard
Odaffa and an old

woman named
the

same who had performed But the five services of which you know. one or the other of them took pity on the poor queen, and when two little daughters

man

U

If eld,

came

to her they concealed the fact

from the

58

THE SWALLOW
king,

and

fled

away with them

in a

ship towards the north.

During the voyage Odaffa

died.

The queen landed on "The
of the Whale,"
built a

Island
sailor

where the old
sails

hut out of the

and wood
all

of the vessel.

And

there they

dwelt.
little

Six years they lived there and the

princesses had no other

amusement than playas the queen had

ing in the snow.

So long

IN
j

LEGEND AND FABLE

59

money, the

little

party did not want for food
island, but

nor fuel from the inhabitants of the
as soon as her
alone,
girls

money was gone they left her and then she began to cry. The little

asked her:

"Why

doesn't the

summer,
"

which, they say, makes the grass grow and
the roses bloom in Ireland, also
" It
little
is

come here ?

said," replied the queen, " that the

swallows

who

bring the

summer do
They
go and

not want to

come so

far north as this.

stop on the other side of the Gulf."

"Very

well; don't cry.

We
here."

will

beg the swallows to come

The queen smiled sadly at their innocence. The next day the princesses began to run,
hand
lows.
in hand,

over the frozen Gulf so as to

reach the other side and talk with the swal-

But SQon they were caught

in a

dense

knew not whether they were going forward or backward. They began to call
fog and
for their

mother and

to

shed tears so
fell

warm
upon.

that

they melted the ice they

Then from out a cave near by came a Fairy

6o

THE SWALLOW

who asked them what they were seeking. They told her they were going to call the swallows. The fairy then said to them " The land of the swallows is a long way
:

from
over

here,

and to get there one must
countries,

travel

many

where there are bad

men and

wolves.

put you to sleep.

Come with me and I will When you shall awake
hugged the Fairy, and she
underground palace, where
to sleep

the swallows will be here."

The
led

princesses
into her

them

she

warmed them and put them

by
in

rocking them gently, and she kept them

bed for a hundred nights and a hundred
days.

At the end

of that time the ice walls

of the Fairy's palace were melted away, and

the eternal snows which had covered every-

thing around had disappeared,

and the

earth
,

began

grow grasses and flowers. The gay song of a bird awakened the
to

little

ladies

from

their slumber,
tell

and they ran away

to their

mother to

her that the swallows
sor-

had come.

But the queen had died of

IN

LEGEND AND FABLE

6i

row, grieving for her lost children.

And

the

good Fairy of the
sight
of

ice,

not being able to endure

the heat brought by the swallows, or the

any green

thing, suddenly melted

away and her body mingled with the ocean. But the god Odin, to repay her for her kindness to the
breast of a
to a
little

princesses, raised her
in

on the

wave and gave her

marriage

god

of the sea.

62

CHAPTER

III

THE SWALLOW IN LEGEND AND HISTORY
In addition to her peculiar physical
traits,

accounted for

in the

legends of the preceding

Chapter, the swallow's

moral

qualities,

as

shown

in her relations

with other birds and

with various animals, have been
subject of legend.

made

the

The

blackbird, the

mon-

key, the raven, the cock, the cuckoo,

sparrow
falls

and the
sagacity.

each, in contrast with the swallow,

short of her in

wisdom and

The

swallow's association with man, some-

times bringing hirn good and sometimes evil
fortune,
history.

forms a curious chapter of legendary
legends

The first two
other birds.

make

plain the swal-

low's superior foresight in her dealings with

63

64

THE SWALLOW

The Swallows and the Flax
A Legend
of Venetia

/'^
Once upon a time the swallow
passed her
life in

the companion-

ship of other birds, lived

among
In
to
first

them and

fed

with them.

the spring, she was the

see the flax sown, and she
told the other birds

that they
all
it

must

eat

the flaxseed or

would

spring up

and bring

harm

to them.

L

The
laughed
her.

birds
at

The
came

flax

IN

LEGEND AND HISTORY

65

up, and the swallow

warned the birds that
out of the ground

they should pull

it

all

and again they laughed. The flax matured, and once more the swallow advised them to
carry
birds
it

away.

At
their

last,

seeing

that

the

paid

no heed

to

her

counsels,

she
at-

withdrew from

companionship and

tached herself to man.
lives

With him she

still

and

sings, secure in his protection.

The

birds,

out of scorn, dubbed her

" false

prophet," but they were blind to one thing

which she saw

clearly

— that out of

flax

men

weave cords and snares

to capture birds.

The Blackbird and the Swallows
A
Little Fable of Italy

Some
south

swallows were flying away to the

one day when a blackbird
to take

begged

them

him along with them as one

of their flock.
all

They

consented, and together

flew away.

After a time they came to
like

a lake with a surface smooth and shiny
a mirror.
CAM.

The vain SW. BK. —
?

blackbird

saw

the lake,

66

THE SWALLOW
admire his own beautiful
reflected

and, wishing to

image which was
stopped his
'

on the water, he
feet.

flight

and stretched out his Suddenly he fell headlong
the water.
>

into

As he was
up
and on

falling,

he

looked

saw

the

swallows

flying

without

him, and he called out to them
in his distress
:

"Wait! Wait! I'm drowning!" But the wise swallows paid

no heed to their foolish companion and they flew on

and on

until they

came

to

their destination.

IN

LEGEND AND HISTORY
is

67

The

next tale

one which

is

told by the

natives of a small island far

southern coast of Africa.
in the
bird.

away on the They too believe
little

good sense and

foresight of the

The Swallow and the Monkey
A
Fable of the Island of Mauritius

Once upon a time a swallow formed a friendship with a monkey and together they
opened a drug

One day the swallow bought a citron and sat down and ate half The other half she of it with a neighbor.
store.

hollowed out so

it

would

float like

a canoe.

Then the swallow and
the

the

the citron and began to

monkey got into sail. By and by

monkey became hungry and took a bite out of the side of the boat. The prudent
in

swallow warned him of the danger they both

would be
farther,

should the rind of the citron
thin.

become too
there

After sailing

a

little

monkey's

part,

was more hunger on the more eating of the boat,

68

THE SWALLOW

and

more anger and

reproof

from

the

swallow.
Finally, at the third bite

which the mon-

key took, the

little
__,.jfM||,

boat sprang a leak and
bottom.

went
of

to the

The monkey
but
the

was quickly
his

^^^K

drowned on account
.

own

MmmKlSk

stupidity,

swallow saved
her
'

life

by

flying away.

The
to

swallow's
in the

shrewdness reaches even

cunning

two following
south.

fables,

one

of which

comes from the
the
little

far north

and tha

other from

far

In these tales

our clever
creatures

bird outwits

two feathered

much

larger than herself, a raven

and a cock.


in

legend and history

69

The Swallow and the Raven
A
Fable of Finland

The swallow and the raven were singing one day. The raven was making ugly
croaks,

and

the

swallow

reproved

him

thus
"

:

You do
as

not
if

know how

to

sing.

You

shriek

you were

hovering over the carrion

of beasts. celebrate

I,

instead,

my

Creator

with

my

song."

The raven
to sing, but

replied

:

"

You may know how
rival

you cannot
long

me

in flying.

Though you may be very
you
will tire in a

swift at the start,

flight."

Then they both began

to

fly.

"

70

THE SWALLOW
After a while the swallow became tired

and she

settled herself

upon the wings

of
to to

the raven, and in this

keep pace with him.
their destination the

way she was able When they came
up

swallow quickly leaped
at

down from
him and
"

the raven's back, looked
:

said


I

Well, here

am, too

!

The Swallow and the Cock
Fable of Mozambique

A

swallow one day went to pay a

visit to

her friend the cock.

The cock

offered her a

sweetmeat made of almonds.
it,

While

eating

the swallow observed that at her house in

preparing this delicacy she always

cooked

herself in the kettle with the almonds.

The
tale,

cock

could scarcely believe

such

a

whereupon the swallow invited him
to her

to come.,

home and

see for himself.

The

next day he came, and there was the

sweetmeat boiling on the stove.

Soon he
boili

saw the swallow

flying high

above the

IN

LEGEND AND HISTORY
in the

71

ing

kettle,

and almost concealed
it.

steam

which issued from

In a

little

while she

reappeared covered with steam and assured
her friend that she had been cooked

along with
the sweet-

meat

in

the kettle.

The cock went home and told

his wife

about the delicious morsel and
it

how

he had seen

made, and he said that he
in the kettle

wanted

to

be boiled
to

with some

almonds so as
delicacy.
kettle

improve the flavor of the
in

His wife then put him

the

and covered him up and he boiled

and

boiled.

Along came the swallow then
kettle uncovered,

and ordered the

and there

72

THE SWALLOW
she found her too credulous friend
all

cooked and ready to be eaten.

The European cuckoo is a bird who builds no nest of her own, but
lays her eggs in the nests of other
birds.
if

By so doing she
own

shirks the
rais-

cares

and responsibilities of
family.

ing her

What

quality in
^

the swallow does

the next legend

show?

The Swallow and the
Cuckoo
a
Fable of Finland

A
low

cuckoo asked a swalif,

for

the

sake of

economy, they might share
a nest in

swallow
of
:

him " What can you do to earn a
" I

at

common. The. once demanded
living
"
?

bring the cry of

summer

at a given

IN

LEGEND AND HISTORY
"

73

time each year," the cuckoo answered.

All

men listen "And I
swallow,
" is

for the cuckoo's cry."

bring the warmth of summer,
replied

together with the springtime,"

the

and so

in this cold land

where the
climate

summer
sibly
will

so late in coming
in

we

cannot pos-

have a nest

common.

The

not permit."
are
all

We
how

familiar with the enmity be-

tween the sparrow and many other birds
the naughty sparrows drive

away the
Hatred

rightful
of the
tales.

owners from
is

their

nests.

sparrow

the motive of the next two

The Sparrow
A

in

the Swallow's Nest
comes here (to the
the beginning of the
to her

Tale of Finland

When
land of

the swallow

Finland)

in

summer, the sparrow chirps
edge of the roof
" I
:

from the

have been here long.
I

I

have shivered
cold.
I

with the cold,

was always

have

"

! : !

74

THE SWALLOW

kept your nest closed and warm, and

now

you come back

to

work

all

done."
:

The swallow
jjN^,

replies

"

Tins

!

Tins

I

will pay, I will

pay

!

I

bring scissors,

wax, and needle from abroad."
"
I

The
don't

sparrow
care
for

cries

your
scis-

needles
sors.
I

and had

your

my own
begS

tools for the work."

The

swallow
"

Never Never
Let
the nest

mind mind

1

me
I

into

The sparrow
replies
:

"

How

can
I

I

let
I

you in?
brought*

brought the feathers.
that
is

all

within

it."
:

The swallow begs and begs
stay
!

"

Let

me

Let

me

stay

!

I

will stay only three

months

in the

home."

IN

LEGEND AND HISTORY
observes
:

75

The sparrow
you enter
it

"

Having cared
I

for
let

your nest for nine months,
for
j

will

not

r

so short a time."

And then they /

\j

begin to quarrel.

The
,

sparrow

says: "There

yonder

is

a

beam.
there and
I

You
will

can build a nest
help you.
for
it

Go
from

and get the foundation
^

the mountain tops of Lapland.

The swallow leaps up and the sparrow comes down from the roof. The swallow
says, "
I

am

a master mason."

76

THE SWALLOW

"And
chitect."

I,"

says the sparrow,

"am

a fine

ar-

"Must

the clay for the pots and kettles be

brought from afar?"
"You," says
the

sparrow, "have

many

brothers to help you."

"But perhaps they have
winds."

all

died in the

long journey oversea and through violent

"Perhaps
the sparrow, things
to

I

will

help
will

you,"

relents

" if

you
rye,

give

me good
seeds
of

eat

barley,

and

hemp."

"But

I

have none of these."

The sparrow then becomes angry. "Very well, I will tear down your nest, and you can
build another.

You

are a nuisance to man.

You
fair.

live in his courtyards."

"That," says the swallow, "is
I

my own
do not

af-,

am

a friend to man.
steal.
I
.

I

steal.

The sparrows
on
friendly

am
the

allowed to
courtyards

live

terms

in

of

man,"

IN

LEGEND AND HISTORY

77

How THE Sparrow was
A Fable
of Hungary

Punished
in the spring

A swallow returns to her nest
and
cries

finds

it

occupied by a sparrow.

She

and shrieks

to attract the attention of

who soon come hurrying from all directions. They at once pitch upon the usurper to make him leave the stolen
her companions,
nest.

But the sparrow refuses
to punish the
nest.

to

move.

The swallows
and decide
keeping the
fly

then hold a brief consultation

sparrow for unjustly

away and get

With one accord they all some moist earth, and, quick

as a wink, they put a layer of

mud

over the

opening of the
it.

nest,

thus hermetically sealing
his wife, deprived of
die.

The sparrow and
air,

food and

both quickly

The

folk of the country of

Hungary have
this

this little song,

which records

ment by the
And

little

mud

plasterers:
fly,


;

punish-

Quick the swallows hither
So the stupid creatures

wall the foolish sparrows in
die,

A warning sad to all their kin.

78

THE SWALLOW

Three charming legends record the swallow's association with saintly
time.

men

of olden

The

first is

the familiar story of

Saint Francis and the' Birds
Francis, the gentle
saint of
Assisi,

was

preaching one day to a company of people

in

the

open country.

Some

birds in the trees

near by disturbed him

with

their

loud

chirping.
saint
at

The
oncg

turned to them and
courteously
silent

asked

them

to

be

and they reverently obeyed him.
Francis,

At another time Saint

who

loved

IN
all

LEGEND AND HISTORY
air,

yg

creatures of the earth and

and who
"little

called

them

his "little brothers"

and

sisters,"

addressed a sermon to a multitude
field,

of swallows and other birds in a
roadside.
trees

by the
the

The

birds

flew

down from

and pressed close about the saint and listened devoutly as he spoke. He told them and of the many blessings he
in

of their Creator

had bestowed upon them,
air in

giving them the

which they

lived, the

raiment which they

wore, the food and shelter which they enjoyed.

And

he told them always to be grateful for

these benefits.

The

birds listened devoutly

and made visible signs of understanding the

words of the

saint,

opening their beaks and
Then, after the saint
filling

spreading their wings.

had blessed them, they flew away,

the air

wjth a wonderful song in which they sought
"to praise

and

to

thank the good Jesus."

In the second legend
visiting
It

we

find the

swallows
Italy.

one of the old convents of

was

situated in the midst of dense woods,
cities.

and far from

8o

THE SWALLOW

Saint Guthlac and the Swallows

One day
visit

Saint Guthlac
cell

was receiving a
friend

in

his

from

his

Wilfred,

when two swallows
little

flew in

and made the

place resound with their merry chatter.
lit

They

upon the shoulders and upon the
saint,

head of the

and they caressed him
Wilfred marveled
birds,

with their black wings.
at

the actions
:

Guthlac
"

of the

and
that

said

to

Oh,

my

brother,

how
"
?

is it

you have
winged

inspired such confidence in these

little

creatures of solitude
"
"

Do you
who

not know," replied the saint,
is

that he

united to

God
all

in

pureness

of heart sees, in his turn,

created beings

joined to

him ?

The

birds of heaven recogo{^

nize those

who

are of this brotherhood

man."

At
cries,

these words the swallows fluttered their
livelier

wings the
as
if

and

set

up

loud, plaintive

they wished to speak and to ask

IN

LEGEND AND HISTORY

8i

some

question.

The
.

saint,

their language, fetched a

who understood little basket made
it

of rushes
floor.

and

bits of

straw and put
birds
at

on the
began

And
their
it

the

^

once

to

make

nest in

And
the

since then, every year, on

very same

day and

at

the

very same hour the swallows

come and ask
and
cell.

for the little rush basket for their nest, for a refuge

under the roof of the
takes

Our next legend

us to a famous

shrine of the Middle Ages, the reputed resting place of the bones of Saint James, he

"who was

buried

more

distant

from

his

country than any other of the Apostles."

This shrine, which for centuries was

the
pil-

most favored gathering place
CAM. SW. BK.

for pious

—6

82

THE SWALLOW
all

grims from

Europe,

is

in Galicia, in the

northwestern corner of Spain.

Saint James of Galicia and the

Swallows
A
Legend of Spain

Saint James was grieving one day because

no one came to his Festival.
is

But

Galicia

so very far

away

that only Saint Alexis

dared to

make

the long journey.

Then, to console Saint James, Jesus said
to

good cheer, James. All those who cannot visit you while they live will come to see you after death."
of

him " Be

:

And from

that time there has been a conlittle

stant knocking at the

door of the shrine
it
!

— and no person touches
cession of the dead,

It is

the pro-

who
same

continually come

and go on
also

their visits to the saint.

And through
all

that

little

door come

the swallows in the world, and each
in

one bears

her

mouth an

olive.

From

IN

LEGEND AND HISTORY

83

these olives

oil is

made

for the

many lamps

which adorn the shrine and which burn there day and night.

We
of

should scarcely expect to find
in the serious

the

swallow playing a part
the world.
of

annals

But
fabled,
fact,

in

that

ancient bor-

derland
true

history,

midway
where
there

between the

and the

legend

is

confused with
bird
flitting

we

discover our

about

from

country to

country.
is

Here, she
life

saving the

of a

famous general

there,

sending

"^

another to tardy
justice,

and more
once,

than

by
the

her timely warning,

deciding

fate of nations.

Even so great a historian as the Greek Xenophon tells us that just before King Cyrus set out to fight the Scythians, some swal-

84

THE SWALLOW

lows appeared to him and warned him of
defeat.

And he

also writes in his account

of his times that both the kings, Darius and

Antiochus, were forewarned by swallows not
to

engage

in battle.
in

Some

swallows, by building their nests

the sails of the Egyptian

Queen

Cleopatra's

barge, foretold the death of her lover,

Mark

Antony.

It is to this

same ancient swallow

superstition that Shakespeare alludes in his

Antony and

Cleopatra,
lo):

Scarus say (IV,

when he makes

Swallows have
In Cleopatra's
sails their nests

built
;

the augurers
tell,

Say they know not, And dare not speak

— they cannot

— look grimly,

their knowledge.

A

famous Roman consul named Hostilius
also

Mancinus was
galley.

warned of defeat by a
the
sails

swallow resting among

of

hi§

We read
Italian

in

an old history, and
tale of

in a pretty

poem, a
of

how

Olaf the Great, a
the city of

king

Denmark, destroyed

IN

LEGEND AND HISTORY
fire

8S

Duna by
number

tying

to the tails of a vast

of swallows
:::------

and then setting them

free.

The
city

birds flew over

the

and

kindled

the

buildings into flames.

This seems almost like
ie,

we must remember that in those
but
very
early

times

roofs were

made

of

thatched straw, and
not as now, of fireproof materials.

As we have
told,

learned

in

the tales

just

the

appearance of
disaster.

a

swallow
the

upon
sea,

land

foretold

Upon

on the other hand, the sight of her was Alexander the taken as a good omen.
Great

once

owed

his

life

to

a swallow.

86

THE SWALLOW
ii

^

^

if

we may
:

credit

the

following

popular

story

While besieging the

city of Halicarnassus,

one day Alexander was so worn out that he

IN

LEGEND AND HISTORY

87

slept until

midday.
lit

While he was
his

asleep

a swallow

upon

head and gave a

loud

cry,

then flew round and round over
all

the bed,

the time

keeping up a very

strange noise.

Alexander was so exhausted
it

by fatigue that
awoke, but

was some time before he
aroused by the noise, he

finally

struck the swallow with his hand.
instead of flying

The

bird

away

insisted

upon

lighting
until the

upon

his head, nor

would she leave

king was fully awakened.

Alexander then

88

THE SWALLOW

called to

mind the omen of the swallow, and

at

once sent for Aristander, his diviner,

who told

him
this

that the swallow's actions signified the

treachery of one of his friends, and also that
treachery would

be brought to
is

light.

He

explained
is

that

the swallow
is

a bird

which

reared
is

among men,

a friend to

man, and
bird.
It

more talkative than any other was shortly discovered that a
son of a trusted captain,

certain Alexander,

was plotting the king's death. And perhaps he would have succeeded in his wickedness
had
it

not been for the clever

little

swallow.
in the

Another swallow who had her nest
chapel of Alexander, son of
told to

Pyrrhus, fore-

him a coming

,

disaster.

And

still

another, building her nest in his tent while

on the march against the Medes,
ochus that
evil

told Anti-

was about

to befall him,

and so he hurled himself down from a steep
precipice.

Because of her
swallow has long

free flight in the air, the

been looked upon as

a

IN

LEGEND AND HISTORY

89

symbol of

liberty.

Several historical tales
:

are based on this fancy

Pliny

tells

us that

swallows never entered the houses of the

Greek

city of

Thebes, because

it

had been
ap-

many

times besieged.

Nor would they

proach the country of the Bizyae, because
there lived the wicked Tereus
in the

who we

learned
Philo-

Greek legend made the pretty

mela prisoner

— as

a result of which act

swallows came into the world.

Swallows have sometimes been made
carry

to
re-

messaged between

men.

Pliny

counts that at the time of the celebrated
chariot races in
(a

Rome, a

citizen of Volterra

city

about

fifty

miles

north

of

Rome,

which

may

be visited to-day) by the

name

of

was the owner of several chariots or " dominus quadrigarum " as you will read in
Caecina

your Latin.

He was

in

the habit of having

swallows caught and carried with him to

Rome when
cus.

he went to compete

in the Cir-

Upon" gaining a victory he would send the news home to his friends by the birds.

QO
i
^"^

THE SWALLOW

He
^

did this by staining

them with
once made

his colors
free;

and then setting them
and they
at

^

^^

their

way

to their old nests.

Fabius
garrison

Pictor,

the ancient historian,

re-

lates in his

Annals how one day a
besieged,

Roman

when a swallow, who had been taken away from her young in the nest outside the walls, was brought to him inside. He tied a string to her foot, making as many knots in it as the number
was being

IN

LEGEND AND HISTORY

91

of days the garrison could hold out.
set her free

Then he
of

and she flew

to friends outside

the walls. the

They understood the meaning knots and at once came to their relief.
tells this

Plutarch

story

:

A

certain Bessus

had

killed his father,

and

had kept the murder a
he went to sup
friends,
in the

many years he secret. One evening
for

house of one of his
swallows which
wrath he
birds in

and while there he angrily struck
a nest of

to

the ground

was

in the house.

Then
asked
:

in great
little

trampled upon and killed the
the nest.
cruel

When

why
"

he did such a
hear
that

thing he replied
birds
killed

Didn't you

those
I

saying

over

and
It is

over
a
lie."

had

my

father?

His friends wondered greatly

at his words,

and they went at once to the king and told

him what had taken

place.

The king

then

made
ters,

diligent inquiries

through his minis-

and

after finding certain proof that this

same Bessus had

really

murdered

his father,

he ordered the culprit put to death.

92

CHAPTER
THE SWALLOW

IV
AND OMENS

IN BELIEFS

As we have

learned from the stories of
is

natural history and legend, the swallow

a

very sociable bird.

She

lives

not only in
kind, but she

large communities of her

own

loves

and seeks the companionship of man,

building in the eaves and windows of his

barns and houses, and rearing her young"
family in his very dooryard.
It is natural,

therefore, that the folk of all countries

have

come to be familiar with her daily habits. They observed her busily fetching mud and fashioning it into her curious nest. They
saw her fighting her old enemy, the sparrow,
in his

attempts to rob the pretty
her,

new home.

They watched
clear,

when

the heavens were

soaring almost out of sight in the blue

above;

and again, when dark clouds hung
93

94

THE SWALLOW

skimming the shining surfaces of ponds and the waving fields of grain. Then, when the first cool winds of autumn chilled the
low,
air,

they saw her
fly
^
^,j
''

^

gather her family-

together and
'-v-

away to unknown land.

some

v^

As

a result of this com-

panionship, curious beliefs

and omens have sprung up

l(BK and

flourished in
of

many

lands.

The
be-

gypsies

Hungary, perhaps

cause of the bird's ceaseless chatter,
relate that the first

two swal-

lows in the world were once

upon a time a quarrelsome man
and his
their
wife,
in

who

passed

all

days

bitter disputes

over their children.
sin

For

this

they were at last changec^

into chattering swallows.

Other
ing.
*

beliefs are

more

pleas-

The Chinese

claim that

the birth of one of their myth-

IN BELIEFS
ical

AND OMENS

95

named Hesie was thus ordered by heaven. One day the Princess Shung was bathing in a stream, when a swallow
heroes
flying

above

let fall

an egg upon her mouth,

— and from this egg the Prince was born.
The Arabs
Jesus,"
call

the swallow the

"

Bird of

and the Algerians consider her sacred
and not to be touched by
hands. In certain tales of the Mid-

like their priests,

human
dle

of
to

Ages we read that one important duty the town guards of German villages was
announce with trumpets the springtime

arrival of the swallows, for the old

Germans

held the bird in high esteem, even fabling

her an assistant of the Lord in the making
of

heaven.

According

to

a Belgian

fable,

swallows were the bringers of water to earth.

The

children of Portugal will
fly

tell

you that

up into the sky and wash the feet of God, and if one of them is harmed it " makes the Mother of Jesus
every day the swallows

weep."

About her mud

nest cluster charming say-

96

'

THE SWALLOW
and
beliefs.

ings

"

Swallow,
little

build your nest in

my

come and window " cry
!

the boys and girls of Brittany in the early
springtime,
for,

unlike the raven, swallows

bring good fortune to the

homes

that har-

bor them.

But the homes they favor with

must be the abodes of love and peace, for, according to the Germans, the slightest quarrel in a family makes the swallows abandon their nests in the eaves and fly away, taking the good fortune with them.
their presence

The

ancient

Romans

gladly allowed Swal-

lows to build in the eaves and roofs of their
houses, for one of their legends taught that
the spirits of the
little

dead babies of their
visit

household came back from heaven to

them in the form of swallows. But beware of harming the nest
rible are the misfortunes

!

Ter-

which

will fall

upon^

your head for the offense!

Sicilian

boys are

taught not to harm the nest for fear of being
stricken

dumb,

and

Norwegian

mothers

w^arn their children that they will

become

IN BELIEFS

AND OMENS

97

blind or crippled

if

they disturb a nest.
is less

In

— the cow's milk
wicked

other countries the retribution
is

severe

soured, the flock of the
his

one

is

scattered,

house
as

falls

down
^y-.

or sudden death visits his household.

In

Jutland,

she
in-

leaves the

jured nest.

^^f>53!^^^^^

«r^

'^--^^y

^

the swallow touches

the

arm

of

the rash

youth and leaves

it

paralyzed.

Sometimes

the poor mother bird in her great grief curses

the offender even to

the third generation.

She picks up a little stone and drops it into a pond for an evil omen, the act signifying
CAM. 5W. BK.

!

98

THE SWALLOW

that one day a

drown.

member of that That is why they say
has befallen,
"

family will
of

a boy
cursed

whom

evil luck

He was

by a swallow."

Worse punishments are reserved who wantonly kills the bird. His
cow
else
will
die,
all

for

him

prettiest

his

sheep will perish, a

stroke of lightning will destroy his house or

he

will lose his parents

during the year.

The French
cow

peasants have the strange belief

that a swallow passing under the belly of a

leaves the animal bewitched, and turns

But the milk may be turned back again simply by scalding it at a
her milk into blood.
four corners

The German
eternal

folk

watched with

interest

the struggle between the swallow and her

enemy, the sparrow.
these
:

In consequence

we have

omens When a" swallow, alights in an open window and twitters, it is a sign that a happy event will come to pass
in that

house.
chirps,

But

if

a sparrow alights

there and

something

unlucky

will

IN BELIEFS

AND OMENS

99

happen.

If

a sparrow throws a swallow out

of the nest, a son will be born and a daughter
die.

But

if

the swallow pushes the sparrow

out, then a
die.

daughter

will

be born and a son
is

A

sparrow flying towards a house

a

sign of the birth of a son, while an approach-

ing swallow foretells a daughter.

The
weak
birds,

folk
feet,

have noted the swallow's small,

and the

fact

that,

unlike other

she

is

almost always on the wing.

So

they have styled her a bird of heaven, and

added that when she alights upon a tree or
barn she cannot again
fly

away, but perishes

there, as the earth is not her element.

They

account for her swift, tortuous, and apparently capricious flight

by the

fanciful notion

that

some

invisible

monster," a

dragon or

hobgoblin, furiously pursues her.

As the swallow flies so swiftly and easily, why not ask her to bear messages to distant
loved ones, even to friends in heaven?
learned
" It

man

of Venice writes

:

A

is

believed here that

swallows have

-

ICX)

THE SWALLOW

a mystical correspondence with certain

men
you

and women, who get from them mysterious
messages from the
of an old
is

skies.

I

could

tell

woman, held

to

be a

saint,

who

said to talk with the swallows."

By
were

carefully

noting her actions at the

approach of a storm and when the skies
clear,

the people have discovered in
of

the swallow one of our surest prophets
the weather.

most familiar

we owe our swallow omens, common to
this
office

To

many languages and
over the
fields

countries.

Swallows
flying

announce the approach of rain by
and the ponds, so
swallows
fly

low

When

low,

A

storm will blow,

say the Italians.

The French have
o'er the plain

it

:


.

Swallows skimming

Are sure messengers

of rain.

When

sunny days are
into the

at hand,

swallows

mount high

heavens and lose them-

selves from sight in the blue sky

— and the

English poet sings

:

IN BELIEFS

AND OMENS
air,

lOl

When
They

swallows

fleet

soar high and sport in

tell

us that the welkin will be clear.

Perhaps because of her
other and

ability to foretell

the weather, the folk appeal to her to decide

more important

matters.

The

French peasant who wishes to marry and

knows not which maid to choose, awaits the coming of the first swallow in the spring. As soon as he spies her, he looks down at his feet, and there upon the ground he finds
a hair, which
the lass he
is

the color of the tresses of

must marry.

The Polish youth who needs a new horse, and knows not which to choose, also consults the swallows.
fields,

He

goes out into the
saying as

and when he sees a swallow he whirls
heel,
so, " Tell

around three times on his
he does

me,

O

swallow, what color

my
side

horse shall be."

Then he steps to one and examines the mark made by his
and there he
tells

heel,

finds a hair the color of

which
buy.

him the color But he must quickly

of the horse to
say, " I've

found

102
!

THE SWALLOW
"

it

in

order to ward off the evil spell of

witches.

The
is

Italian
in the

peasant

who

sees

the

first

swallow
he

spring at once stops where
his knife digs a hole in the

and with

ground near
a
little

his left foot,

and there he

finds

piece of coal, which has the wonderto cure fever.
coal,
it

ful

power

This magic piece

of

swallow

the

youth of
a

Denmark,
ties

when he
his
disease.

finds

in the

same way,
talisman

to

spade

handle

as

against

In Chapter Seven

we

shall learn of

many other strange practices of healing. Where do the swallows spend the months of winter? The answer to
question, so simple to us to-day,

cold
this

was

until

quite recent years the subject of astonishing
beliefs.

Among

the

many
in his

curious things

which Pliny taught

Natural History,

was the
toms
in

belief that

swallows go to the bot-

of lakes

and cling there close together
comes.
for

bunches

like grapes, until spring

This, solution

of the

mystery sufficed


IN BELIEFS

AND OMENS
men,

103

many

generations

of

and

even yet

a similar notion
ignorant peoples

may

be found

among

the

of northern

Europe.

As

every

fall

they see the swallows gather in

large flocks

upon the margins of lakes and
of night they

ponds, and then in the dead

disappear, they say the birds have
to the

gone down

bottom of the water
ice until the

to

remain there

under the

end of bad weather.

This absurd belief has not been confined
to

the

ignorant,

for
in

listen

to

the learned

Izaak

Walton,

his

immortal discourse

upon the gentle
"It
is

art of angling:

well

known
to

that swallows and bats
birds,

and wagtails, which are called half-year
are

not seen

fly

in

England

for

six

months

in the year,

but about Michaelmas

leave us for a better climate; yet

some
at a

of

them that have been
have been found
in

left

behind their fellows,
time

many thousands
clay caves,
live

hollow

trees, or

where they

have been observed to

and sleep out the

whole winter without meat."

104

CHAPTER V
THE SWALLOW
IN

PROVERBS AND RffiDLES

Just as little by little the peculiar habits and traits of the swallow were translated into
beliefs

and omens, so gradually these

beliefs

and omens crystallized into proverbs and
riddles,

and as such they became a part of
speech of

the

common

many

peoples.

The

bird's

springtime coming and autumn de-

parture, her hatred of the sparrow, her curi-

ous nest, her incessant chatter and continuous flight
fanciful

— each serves
of

as a

means

for the
fact.

expression

some simple

The proverbs have
and under

often a deeper meaning,

many

a plain statement

we may
upon

find concealed a

wise and homely truth.

The coming

of the swallow depends

the state of the weather; therefore the precise

date varies from country to country.
105

In Italy


I06

THE SWALLOW

she appears about the 21st of March, which
is

Saint Benedict's day, and the people greet
this

one another with

proverb

:

By Saint Benedict the Blest, The little swallow's on her nest.

She

is

first

seen in France on March

25,

or sometimes as late as the loth of April,

and the

folk,

happy

sunshine, repeat:

to

be out in the spring

When

their nests the swallows

make,

We

no longer shelter take.

Then, as they see the fresh young green of
their grain fields, they

add

:

The swallows

to the

wheat

fields

bring

All the joys of fruitful spring.

Berlin sees the swallow about the
April, but she does not reach

i8th of

Copenhagen^

Denmark,
15th
is

until

May 5th.

In England, April
if

called

"Swallow Day," but

a bird
be

chances to be seen sooner, then

may

heard the familiar
One
swallow does not

make

a summer.


IN PROVERBS

AND RIDDLES

107

This proverb,
times

is

old,

going back to Greek
:

when

its

form was
does not

One swallow

make a

spring.

A

quaint combination of the two proverbs

is

current in the Balearic Isles, near the coast
of Spain
:

One swallow makes

neither a summer, nor two springs.

As

the swallow leaves

Italy

about the

middle of August, the devout folk naturally
,

associate the event with the feast days of
their

August saints, Saint Roch (August 16) and Saint Bartholomew (August 24), and we
hear
:

On
and

Blessed Saint Roch's day.
fly

The swallows

away,

O

Saint Bartholomew,
the swallows flew.

With God

Instead of suggesting a saint, the bird's departure from

Gascony

calls
:

work

to be

done

in the fields

to

mind the

When

the swallows go away.
all

Get the plow and work

day.

io8

THE SWALLOW

A

homely German proverb says
When
the swallows go away, the

:

flies stay,

which means that the birds are a benefit by
ridding the land of
flies,

.,.

and

also, in an,

""'"->:
.

^'

"
..

othersense.thatsome-

s^

^
'

>.

-z^

",

times bothersome
people remain

'.cV.:-,

around

after

-

-^

"

the

more

.

....
'

serious ones

; ^^ ^^, " "'"'^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

.:C/j#^2 _
'*'^'

have departed.

The Danish

'

people have a proverb which attributes a
selfish
bird,

reason to the

summer

visits of

our
;

but

we

are well aware of
is like

its

untruth -^
in the

The

hypocrite

the swallow

— with us

sum-

mer, and away at the approach of bad weather.

Some

proverbs combine both the coming

;

IN PROVERBS

AND RIDDLES
the swallows.

109

and

the

going
have:

of

France

we

From

The swallows in March arriving, Not always make the spring

And
The

in

September, departing,

clouds of autumn bring.

The Austrians say

that the swallows

come
25),

on the day of the Annunciation (March

and go away on the birthday of Mary, the

Mother of Jesus (September
the events thus
:

8)

and they join

On

the day of Mary's birth,
fly

The swallows

away

And

they come again to us.

Annunciation Day.

In the proverbs which voice the quarrel

between the swallow and the sparrow, the
inner
that

meaning meant
one
should
lest

to

be conveyed
carefully
to

is

attend

his

own household

harm come unawares.

"When
herself,"

the swallow allows the sparrow to

enter her nest, she

must make another for and "While the swallow is away
sparrow robs the nest" say

after food, the

no
the Germans.
"

THE SWALLOW

The Dutch put

it

this

way:
re-

When

the swallows go, the sparrows

main."

The swallow

loves her pretty nest and the

Germans love their comfortable homes, so group of German naturally we have a ^.
-

^

proverbs
"^

which
this

express

common

sentiment

:

"An old mother swallow
"The swallow
gladly
"

knows her own

nest,"

returns to her nest,"

When

the swallows go

IN PROVERBS

AND RIDDLES

iii

away, the nest remains empty."

When

they

wish to say

in

metaphor that a successful
"

home
fetch

is

one for which both husband and wife
have
"this
:

labor, they

When

both swallows

mud, the nest is soon made," and when they warn a friend not to expect the impossible,

they say to him

:

"

Never look

for eagles

in

a swallow's nest."

Affection for the bird
hospitality

and their
"

own

proverbial

the

people of the Fatherland

make

plain in this

proverb

:

One swallow and
into the house."

a guest bring

good luck

The
is

ceaseless chatter of swallows

is

sug-

gestive of the endless tattle of gossips, and

the inspiration of a group of
this idle

proverbs
habit.

aimed against
"

and harmful

Do

not receive swallows into your house,"

said old Aristotle,
Italians,

and so say the modern

meaning that you should not make
of persons

friends

who

cannot bridle their

The Germans remark of one who talks too much " He went to school to the swallows." " Swallows come chattering to
tongue.
:

112

THE SWALLOW
and go away silent"
is

their nests,

an old

Latin proverb.

When

a

little

German boy
hat in

salutes a friend

by raising
people joke:
his hat,"

his
"

nervous haste, the

He

has some swallows under

and when he plays truant, they say
"

of

him

:

He

has been to school to the swal-

lows."

By

these they
is

mean

that,

like the

swallows, he

restless

and would rather
spend

roam about
his time in
"

at his

own

free will than

one

place.
" is

A

swallow without a louse
proverb of Holland.
the
"

a

man

without a cent, or a beggar, in a homely and

common
city
"

In a certain

in

north of

Italy,

they

name

a

swallow

the black silk ribbon with which
tie

the engaged girls

their braids,

which
girls

rib-

bon distinguishes them from the
are not yet betrothed.
"

who
a

We all
is.

know what
girls

swallow-tailed coat "

The beauty and grace
sometimes compared
of swallows, as in

of

young

is

to the beauty
:

and grace

Tuscany

IN PROVERBS

AND RIDDLES

113

Little flower of myrtle bright
I like


light,

my

sweetheart lythe and
in

Like a swallow

her

flight.

Many

years ago in a

little

village in the
Sicily,

western part of the island of
lived a very old

there

man who,

it

was rumored,
very poor

made

tails for

swallows.

He was

and very small and very pious, and so they
gave him the name of Saint Miserino, which

means

all

those things.

To-day the people

who

live in that village recall

him

in a say-

ing addressed to a person

do the impossible:

who

attempts to

For Saint Miserino you

I'd mistake,

Who

tails for

swallows thought he could make.

In Italy, the beatings
heart are called
"

of

a pretty

girl's

swallows' wings," and

when

a child

is

exceptionally bright in his studies,

they say of

him

:

"He must
the

have eaten a

swallow's heart."
cine

In the Chapter on Medi-

we

shall

learn

meaning of

this

saying.

The answer
CAM. SW. BK.

to each of the following rid-

114

THE SWALLOW
is "

dies

The Swallow."
you

In two of them her

forked

tail,

will notice, is

compared

to a

pair of scissors of the legends.

— perhajss
:

an echo of some

A Greek riddle runs
Needle
Black as a


top,

in front,

Scissors behind,

monk on

White

as cotton beneath
is it ?


:

What

From Roumania come the next two What is that which has a head
woman, and a
tail like


like a

a fork

?

Now on high. Now down low,
It is black.

And

not a

cat.

The Portuguese
What

children ask one another

:

is that,

Which does not belong
Eats and drinks here.
Sleeps here.

here.

Yet doesn't

live

here

?

Another Portuguese riddle describes the
little

bird thus

:

!

;

IN PROVERBS

AND RIDDLES

115

A spinner who
And

spins not

cures not in

March

;

Comes from the sea, flies to the sea, Builds her home without hearth,
Without spade, without mattock,

And

without help of male.

Chirrichiz

In the island of Sardinia there runs a prettyriddle,

which has
:

for answer, "

The Swallow's

Nest

"


know a All made All made
I

palace
of lace, of lace

No

stone, nor plaster
it is.

Guess what

Guess what

it is

No

plaster,

nor stone.

ii6

CHAPTER
THE SWALLOW
IN

VI

FOLK SONGS

Where
whom
long

can

we

find a

more charming
little

in-

spiration to

song than the

swallow, with

the children of

many

lands live the

summer through in ship ? To her who brings
lieve,

close companion-

them, as they berain,

the sunshine and the

and who

sets

them the example

of her cheerfulness

and her industry, they turn with pretty songs
of

welcome, of entreaty, and of longing

;

but

when the

hateful sparrow appears, then the

bird herself tells us in

mournful cadences the

sad tale of thievery and destruction.

As soon
first

as they hear the twitter of the

swallow upon her arrival from over

the desert, the children of Greece arise at the peep
of

dawn and
117

call

upon the them

hills

and the flowers

to rejoice with

at the

!

ii8

THE SWALLOW
of the swallows
tell
;

coming
bird to

and they ask the

them where and how she has
:

passed the time since her departure
March has come
!

It fills

the air

Rejoice, ye birds and hills

and flowers!

And

tell us,

swallows, of the hours

That you have passed, and where.

Then, after the manner of children, they

beg to know what she has
brought

them

from afar;
't:>

and the bird answers that

she has

brought them,
besides

the

health and

joy of

IN

FOLK SONGS

119

the

new

season,
:

some

bright eggs for the

coming Easter


my
swallow;
?

Little swallow, joyous one,

Joyous one,

From

the desert what dost bring
I

" Health, red eggs, and joy

sing

"
!

The swallow
ing
children
all

builds her nest, and, perchof
it,

upon the edge
tells

she recites to the

the delights of the

new

season.

She

them

that the trees will soon be

green, the hens will cluck
will skip to the

and

lay,

the herds
all

mountains, and

created

things will rejoice in the departure of the

snow, and the coming of the sun
From
She
waves has sped

:

the Black Sea the swallow comes,
o'er the
;

And she has built herself a nest. And resting there she said —
:

"

Thou February cold and wet, And snowy March and drear.
its

Soft April heralds

approach.

And
The

soon

it

will

be here.

little

birds begin to sing.

Trees don their green array.

Hens

in the

yard begin to cluck,

And

store of eggs to lay.

;

!

I20

THE SWALLOW
The herds
their winter shelter leave
;

For mountain side and top

And goats begin to sport and And early buds to crop
Beasts, birds, and

skip,

men

all

give themselves

To

joy and merry heart.
ice

And

and snow and northern winds Are melted and depart. Foul February, snowy March,
Fair April will not tarry.

Hence, February

!

March, begone
!

Away

the winter carry
!

Fritz

Pritz

"
!

— Translated by Countess

Martinengo-Cesaresco.

A

cordial

and unique welcome was given

the swallows to the Island of
twenty-five centuries ago.

Rhodes about In the month of

Boedromion (our February) the children were
accustomed to go about the streets of the
villages singing the "

Swallow Song," and
gifts of cakes, wine,
«

demanding of the people
cheese,
etc.,

for

the swallows.

They even

threatened to break
off the little

wife of

down the door and carry him who dared to refuse
in the

them.

This was their song,

charming


IN

!

;

FOLK SONGS

121

English version of the Countess MartinengoCesaresco:^

The swallow comes!
See on her back

She comes, she brings

Glad days and hours upon her wings.

Her plumes
But
all

are black,

below
well-stored house with haste,
taste.

As

white as snow.

Then from your
Bring a flagon

Bring sweet cakes of dainty
full of wine,

Wheaten meal

bring, white

and

fine

And

a platter load with cheese.

Eggs and porridge add

— for these
we
leave,

Will the swallows not decline.

Now
Till

shall

we

go, or gifts receive

Give, or ne'er your house

we

the door or lintel break.
little

Or your

wife

we take

;

She so hght, small toil will make. But whate'er ye bring us forth.
Let the
gift

be one of worth.
to greet the swallows then.

Ope, ope your door

For we are only boys, not bearded men.

This custom was continued through the centuries, and, as late as one hundred years
ago, a traveler in Greece

saw the

little

boys

122

THE SWALLOW
of

Athens going about the

streets

each carrying in his hands
a crude wooden image
of a
little
it

swallow attached to a
windlass,

which

spin rapidly round

and round.

made They

stopped before the doors of the principal

houses and sang this song

:


O'er the white sea the swallow

is

winging,

She
"

rests

;

and

she's singing

:

To March, my good month

of

March,

And
The

to you,

February,

All snowy and dreary,

fragrance of springtime you're bringing."

Then they
etc.

received gifts of eggs, cakes,

fruit,

From

these old Grecian swallow greetings

sprang a custom,
countries
of

common

still

in

several

Europe, for the children, an^
well, to

sometimes older people as
in

go about

bands on

New

Year's Eve, Easter Eve,

and Martinmas (or Feast of Saint Martin,
celebrated

on November

1 1).

They

sing

IN

FOLK SONGS

123

before the houses of the chief citizens and the shops of the sellers
of
eatables,

and

accept in return gifts of

To these same pretty own gift-giving customs
the Easter, and the

money and of food. songs we trace our
of the

New

Year,

May time.

The

children of Albania, the country lying

along the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea,

beg the swallow for good tidings to cheer

them

after the dreary winter,

and she

tells

them to go out

into the bright sunshine and
:

there they will find happiness

Welcome March, mild month and
Bringing sunshine with the Bringing flowers to
fill

storniy,

rain,

the meadows.

Bringing mountain snows again.

O Lady
If

Swallow, Lady Swallow,

Dancing there upon that beam.
you have some news
to tell

me,

Tell, that I

may

happier seem.
I

— " O wretched youth, the news
Is posted far

bring

and near
is

Happiness

is

out of doors.

And

the sea

calm and

clear."

! !

;

!

124

THE SWALLOW

Then they invite the bird to come and build her home in the eaves of their houses, promising her to care for. her young
:

0-swallow,

little

swallow,

Welcome as you now appear The snow has gone from off our mountains,
Winter's ended, spring
is

here,

With

all its little

flowers and sun,

Because of your return.
Build your nest beneath

my

window,

Wake me with your morning song, And I'll give you and your nestlings
Food
for all the
little

summer

long.

swallow,

swallow,

Welcome, as

to us

you come

But these promises are not always kept, for from Spain there comes to our ears the bird's
wail of anguish over a

wanton injury

to her

new nest.
To
I

The wicked one tells us
on the way,

himself:

St. Felix,

met a swallow one bright day Her little nest was nearly done,

When
1

with

my

sword point, just for fun,
tiny thing.

struck

away the

You

should have heard her loud wail ring

;

;

!

!

IN

FOLK SONGS
cried
:

125
poor

She wept, she
I'll

"

Oh

!

My

home

no more where armed men roam, But on a mountain top so high That cruel men will not pass by
build

Only perchance the King of France May come that way, by some good chance,
If so,

my

love

I'll

manifest
little

By

giving him

my

nest."

But

alas for the nest!

The home which
left

the returning swallow

in

the

fall,

so

pretty

and

so

well

stored,

has

been
in-

robbed
jured.

and

Listen, as

i

the poor bird grieves:

When

I

went away
fall,

In the

Full was

all

When

I

come again

In the spring.

Not a thing
Eaten
all
!


Eaten
all

As she examines
creases,

>^
v^

more

closely

the ruin of her home, her

and she sobs

:

m-

!!

;

;

126

THE SWALLOW
Pretty was my nest, When away I flew

Ruin covers

all,
!

As

I

come anew

Soon she discovers
the sparrow,

that

it

is

her

enemy,

who
:

is

the robber, and she cries

out in anger


house was
full of food,

My

When I went away last fall And now, come home, I find

A sparrow's eaten all!
Overcome with discover some
tell

grief,

she looks about to
to

friend

whom

she

may

her troubles, but, instead of a
spies

Jriend, she

another enemy
:

and she sighs

How nice it would be. How nice it would be,
To
sit

down and chat

With my neighbor, were
she

Not a Not a

horrible cat
horrible cat

At last, as she cannot gossip with her neighbor,
she goes out for a walk and meets with another
misfortune.

Listen to her woeful tale

:

;

!

IN
I

FOLK SONGS
for a walk,

127

went

Tore
But

my

coat to a shred
it

To mend
I

I'd like

have no thread.
little

But the good-natured
tasks so contented and

bird soon for-

gets her wrongs, and she goes

about her
Italian

gay that the
Valley of the

youth
river

who

live in the

Magra

beg her
:

for a

as they labor


cheer

song to encourage them

Swallow,

lift

your

little

voice,

me in my work me in the task I do, And shame me when I shirk.

And

'Twill aid

Hark!

From

across the sea floats an echo

in accents soft

and musical.

It

is

a

little

Spanish swallow telling the young
to

men

that

accomplish their tasks they must be up

betimes in the morning.
as an example,
all

She recites

to them,

that she has done while
pil-

they were asleep, even making the long

grimage
rat:

to

the famous shrine of
I rose

Monser-


very early,
I ate in a hurry.

!

!

;

!

128
I

THE SWALLOW
went
to

Monserrat
still ?

In bed you are

Get up with a

will

Get up and equal that

In place of good cheer and homely advice,

some

children ask the friendly swallow for
in their sorrow.

sympathy

A

Greek maiden
a

who

is

grieving over the departure of

loved one begs the swallows to cease their

gay chatter and
When
In
its

to join in her
Basil
!

lament

:

To Sweet

I cried,
I

behold

espied

branches widespread,

A rose rear its head.
.

Then
O,

the swallows there clinging

Set up a loud singing,

my

swallows

!

I pray,

Cease your songs on

this day,

For my heart's core, my own, Far away has he gone
;

Far from port he

is sailing.

Where tempests
O,

are wailing.

my

swallows, I pray.

Do

not sing on this day
ditty

But change your gay

To low

sobs of pity.

"

'

IN

FOLK SONGS
little

129

In a

Servian swallow song
in

our bird appears

the role of

a comforter to some neglected

young

eagles.

She promises

to take the fatherless little

ones far away to

a happier land
"

:


why
fallest

O

silent

dew,

thou not on

me ?

The

small-leafed Basil

made her

plaintive cry.

"Two

mornings now,

my

moisture freshened thee,"
reply.

The dew, reproachful, whispered in "This morn an eagle and a sprite I

saw,

A mountain
'

spirit,

quarreling o'er yon

The mount is mine, 'twas The spirit cried. The eagle took no
CAM. SW. BK.
9

mount given me by law
!

count.

I30
'

THE SWALLOW
'Tis

mine

! '

she said

Atones her boldness.

Bemoan
'

their fate,

— and now with broken wings While the eaglets small a kindly swallow sings —
:

Comfort, young eaglets,

I will

take you

all

Unto the land

of Ind, far, far o'er seas,

Where

to the horses' shoulders clover grows,

And amaranth

reaches even to their knees.

The sun sets never on that happy shore.' And now the little eaglets mourn no more."

A bird
much
it is

of the south, the ortolan,

which

is

liked as a food, asks the

swallow how

them come back in the spring, when so few went away in the fall. The wise bird answers them with another
that so

many

of

question.

logue

:

Portuguese children sing this

dia-

Little swallow, whence come you, That return so many, and were so few

?

The swallow answers
Foolish ortolan,

:


.'

whence come you.

That were so many, and return so few

As
rally

they see the swallow flying so swiftly
air,

and easily through the

the children natu-

ask her to be a messenger to distant

;

IN

FOLK SONGS
to

131

friends,

carry

sighs

and

notes

— and sometimes
The Spanish
youth
of

the petitioner himself!

the
of

Province
Galicia,

where
bones

rest the

of Saint

James, asks only that she carry a
little

sigh in her gentle
!

beak

:

Oh Thou who far away dost Away to shores less bleak Carry to my love a sigh.
In thy gentle beak.

fly,

132

THE SWALLOW
of

The young man
with a sigh

Roumania

is

not content

— he

begs her to bear a note to
:

some

far-away land
Swallow,
Will'st a
little


me ?

bird free,

message bear for

Take Drop

this
it

note to far off land,

in

my

sweetheart's hand.
it

Should she ask from whence

came.
'

Should she seek the writer's name,

Say

:

"

The one from whom

I've flown

Loves

thee, darling, thee alone."

— Translated by
The
Italian

Henry

Phillips, Jr.

wants

have a feather
heart as a seal

more he would from her wing with which to
still

pen the note for her to carry, using his
:

own

O

swallow, flying o'er the sea.
list

Stop awhile and

to

me.

A feather from
Give, that
I to

your wings so bright

my

love

may

write.

With my lifeblood I'll reveal it. With my own heart I will seal it, And when all is neatly done, Take it to my dearest one.

Neither sighs nor notes will satisfy the

Portuguese youth.

He

asks the

little

bird

;

IN

FOLK SONGS

133

to take with her

and lonely

self

:

no

less than his

own sad

Sad, sad

is

my

life to

me,

Sad as ever can be

Take me with you, let me follow Where you wander, little swallow.

But

in France, sighs, notes,

and companion-

ship, all are of

no

avail.

There the young

man

longs to be the bird herself.

He
city,

re-

turns from the wars to his

own

and

knocks at the door of his promised bride.

She refuses
plaint
:

to

open the door.
swallow I'd be,
then
I

Listen to his

A
To

And

would

flee
;

the arms of Marrianne

There I'd alight, And from her face white

Sweet

kiss take

by

right.

But the maiden saucily
No
branches are
to rest

replies

:

my arms
;

For you

upon

In father's garden, see,
You'll find rosebushes three,
That'll furnish rest for thee
!

134

THE SWALLOW
children of Parma, Italy, believe that

The

the swallows can

bring the rain or

make

the sun to

/
/
'

,

,

/

'

'

shine, so they
in pretty

-

petition
ditties.

them

little

When
and
call

they

want the

rain to come, they
fields
:

out into the

go

down low, Pray God a storm may blow Pray God that it may soon appear. Pray God it's coming near!
Little swallow, fly
;

And
\yant

the swallows skim low over the land,
!

and down comes the rain
the

When
and

the^

the sun to shine, they look out of
at

window

the

falling

rain,

they

sing this

little

song, certain that the birds

will bring the bright

sunshine

:

;

IN

FOLK SONGS
God's loved one,
;

135

Little swallow,

Pray

Him

to
it

send the sun

Pray God

soon shine low
it's


!

Ah

!

There

coming now

And
sends
is

the sun soon scatters the clouds and
its

rays

down upon them.
and the swallows

When
still

rain

threatening,

persist

in twittering cheerily,

the Spanish boys and
:

girls of

Andalusia sing to them
Little swallow,

-r-

Why

so gay

?

March has not Gone away.
To-morrow,

yet

plain,
rain.

We

shall

have

Dona

Beatrice.

When" September
children see their
to depart for

approaches,
friend

and

the

little,

making ready
tell-

warmer

lands, they turn to her

with songs of sorrow, chiding her for not
ing

them when she

will return

:

O

swallow,

when

I've nourished thee,

And

given thee wings of gold

Up

to the

sky so blue thou'rt gone,

Nor thy

return hast told.

:

;

136

THE SWALLOW
child asks her to find

One

and salute her
:

pretty

godmother over the sea
Thou who
Salute


;

art setting out o'er sea,

my godmother there Take hef my love, I fondly
Her with

for

me

pray.

the wig and the ribbons gay.

Another mourns because the bird

will find a

new

nest over the seas^ but where will his

own home be?
The swallows have all flown away, To a land that is warmer, more gay


be
?

New nests they will But my nest ^- Ah
!

makfi o'er the sea.

where

shall

it

I I

would build

it,

my

love, in

your heart,
to part.

would bide with you never
let

There

me

rest, let

me

stay,

Till life

and the world pass away.
all

After listening to
songs, a
practical

these sentimental

litfle

swallow from the

shores of Greece

tells

the children that the

harvest remains for them to gather, and that

she will return after
I
>

it is all

stored

away
grain,

:

am going aWay — and with you I leave The figs and the nuts, the grapes and the
Which
stored
I

away

in the bins will be,
to this land again.

When

come back

"

IN

FOLK SONGS

137

But the French children are curious to know where their little companion is going, and where she will pass the cold months, and
they ask her
:

Swallow, pretty swallow,
In winter where do you go?

"To Athens I fly. To Stephen I hie, Why do you ask me so


?

Let us hope that Stephen
little

is

one of the

Athenian boys who
in the pretty

is

watching and

waiting for her coming, and

who

will wel-

come her

Greek way.

^.

CHAPTER
THE SWALLOW
IN

VII
MEDICINE

Strange and varied are the powers which, we have learned, are attributed to the swallow, but the strangest of
all is

yet to be told
ills.

— her
the

power

to

lessen

human

With

little

swallow stone taken out of her
nest,

stomach or from her

with the burned

ashes of her body, and with her
heart,

warm bleeding
marvelous
a small plant

she was said to perform

cures.

Even more than

this,

which springs up
sess the

in the fields

each year upon
to pos-

the arrival of the swallows

was held

same magic
first

virtue.

Let us

examine the swallow stone
of use.
little

and

its

manner
this

Faith in the healing
is

power of

stone

very old and

comes

to

us originally, with our prettiest

songs and legends, from the ancient land of
139

,

I40

THE SWALLOW
In the Middle

Greece.

Ages
is
it

its

use spread

over into Italy and Spain, and thence into
northern

Europe,

— and

not possible
is

that the eyestone of to-day,

which

some-

times used to remove foreign particles from
the eye,
stition
?

is

a remnant of this

old

super-

The swallow
was a
white
tiny
in color,

stone of popular medicine
pebble,
tells
"

oval-shaped

generally

although Pliny

us there

were two kinds of swallow stone
in

renowned

magic

art "

— one

white and the other
also
red,

red.

German
the red

scholars

mention two,

one red or speckled with
black,

and the other
heal-

one alone possessing
stone

ing virtue.

Where was

this

to

be

found?

Among
may
dred

the peasant folk of

Denmark you
have
never
this

still

hear

it

said that out of one hun-

little

swallows

which
in its

touched earth, one has
healing stone.
that
if

stomach
will tell

The Germans

you
nest

a swallow returns to the

same

!

;

IN

MEDICINE

141

year after year for seven consecutive years,
at the

end of the seventh summer she
precious

will

leave this

stone in
still

the nest.

A
It

French fable gives
tells

another version.

us that the parent swallows search for

the stone in the sands of the sea, and

when

found they take

it

home and

use

it

to heal

the eyes of their nestlings, even restoring the
sight

when they

are blind.

It is to this folk

tale that

Longfellow refers
:

lines of

Evangeline

in the

opening

Oft in the barns they climbed to the populous nests on the
rafters,

Seeking with eager eyes that wondrous stone, which the
swallow
Brings from the shore of the sea to restore the sight of
fledglings
its

Lucky was he who found
swallow

that stone in the nest of the

How was

this

magic stone used by man

?

For long centuries it was a popular remedy for all manner of eye troubles; and many were
the cures, including even blindness, which
it

was claimed

to perform.

But more astonish-

142

THE SWALLOW
were the other uses to which
it

ing. still put.
It

was
con-

was ground
to

fine

and taken as a
to

powder
vulsions,

heal
to

tumors,
cure
called
"

soothe

and

falling

sickness,"

as

the

disease

epilepsy

was then
styled

known.

A learned
the stone a

man
•'

of the Middle

Ages

noble and efficacious stone,"

and said that
else

it

might be taken internally or
around the neck, or

wrapped

in a little piece of cotton or silk

and worn
healing.

in the armpit,

upon other parts
Others

of the

body which needed
that
it

recommended
left

be

done up
and
tied

in the skin of a

raven or of a

calf,

under the
dizziness,

arm

as a talisman

against

falling

sickness,

melan-

cholia, or fainting spells.

Physicians bound

the stone upon the insane and
suffering
relieve a

upon

children

from croup.

When

they wished to

baby

in

convulsions, they wrapped

the stone in a piece of cloth

and

tied

it

around

its

neck like a charm, at the same

time saying prayers over the child

— "three

!

IN MEDICINE

143

Paternosters and three
liver
it

Ave

Marias, to de-

from the

evil."

A

curious old book called

The Secrets of
to
It

Medicine gives us careful directions as
the finding and use of the swallow stone.

says the stone must be extracted from the
belly of the first-born swallow, just before

the full of the

moon

or

when

the sun

is " in

the sign of the Lion," and before the bird

has touched earth.

The author
"

calls

it

a
it

ready remedy for falling sickness

because

has the power to scatter that tenacious and
glutinous

humor which

is

the source and

seed of this disease."
tices

Strange medical prac-

indeed
curious
still

More

than the remedies of

the swallow stone are the medicines which

were made of the

bird's little body.
if

seven hundred years ago,
cure your eyes, yau

About you had gone to

a doctor in Italy and asked for medicine to

probably would have

been given a mixture containing the burned ashes of a swallow. If your eyes were very

144

'^HE

SWALLOW

mother bird mixed with honey would be handed to
inflamed, the ashes of an old

much

you.

Or, the ashes of the swallow's heart

stirred into

white wine would be prescribed.

A

very special eye remedy was then con-

cocted from the ashes of the bird taken in the days
of

hatching,
full

mixed with certain

waters

" at

the

of the moon," together

with

other

absurd

observances,

all

of

which seem

to us very ridiculous.
ills

To

heal other bodily

in

those ignorant

and superstitious times, they made as many
as seventeen different kinds of healing lotions

out of our bird.
stirred

In
oil,

one, her

ashes were

into

castor

and

in

another her

blood was mixed with incense.
treated
all

The

people

diseases of the throat and of the

skin with this absurd medicine, as well as
fever

and ague, drunkenness and hydrophobia..
nest also had a
place in

The mud
medieval
vised
teeth,
its

the
ad-

doctor's

medicine case.

He

use for sore throats and for aching
deaf ears

for

and for weak brains.

!

;

IN
It

MEDICINE
to

145

was even given

cows suffering

with dysentery

Do you know
tiny yellow

a

little

plant with a

blossom, which grows
fields

wild

in

our

and which

is

called celandine or
It
.

swallow wort?

appears in the spring with the
it

swallows, and
departure,

withers at their
its

hence

name
in

which

means "swallow"

the Greek language.

Spanish

folk say that this herb cannot

be seen

by human

eyes, being

visible only to the swallows.

But

our poets have surely looked upon
its

bright sunny blossom, else
:

could one have sung

how

There's a flower that shall be mine,
'Tis the
little

celandine.

.

.

.

The

thrifty cottager

Who

stirs little

out of doors,

Joys to spy thee near at home Spring is coming, thou art come
CAM. SW. BK.
10

'•

146

THE SWALLOW
in the

Swallowwort,
times of which
to

far-away and ignorant

have the

we are learning, was believed same healing power as the swalIt

low stone.

was fabled that swallows
taught
its

used the herb upon the eyes of their young,

and that they

first

use to man.

But whether this be true or not, swallowwort was once so common and well recognized a remedy^ that an old
of
it:

scholar wrote
sight through

"When
disease

a child loses

its

some

they apply an

herb

called

celandine,

which heals the eyes and restores

the sight."

must also mention another practice, one which was very common many years
ago
It

We

in the countries of the

south of Europe.

was

to kill a swallow, take out its
it

warm
girl

beating heart, and give
to eat.

to a

boy or

Why

did

they do

this?

Because

the parents believed that the swallow's heart,
if

eaten,

would make the

child

grow up wise

and

learned.

In different places they looked

for different results

from

this strange diet.

IN MEDICINE

'"

147

Some

believed

it

would strengthen the memwould bring wisdom and
parents of the children
of

ory, others that

it

love of study.

The

who
their

lived in the land

Dalmatia forced

boys and
hearts.

girls to

swallow not one, but
order to

three
hearts

And

in

make

the

more

palatable,

they

covered them

with sugar.

In contrast to these grim

usages of the

south lands, the youths of northern Europe
look upon the heart of the swallow as

a
of

symbol of

affection.

The young man

Denmark who wishes the maiden he loves to love him in return, wears a swallow's heart in a charm. When he has won her
love,

he gives her a ring which has

lain for

nine days in the nest of a swallow.

The
as

boys and girls also take a swallow's heart,

embed
good

it

in

white wax and wear
is

it

an

amulet or charm, which
fortune.
will

sure to

bring

We

close this Chapter of the story

of the sufferings inflicted

upon our beloved

148

THE SWALLOW
little bird,

and gentle

sufferings caused

by

the folk's belief in her power to
all

do them

kinds of good, with the explanation of

a pretty symbol.
the children
of

On

the

first

day of March

the country of

Roumania
in the

hang from

their necks a

charm

form

of a heart, which they call the

"

Martzisor."
i,"

On one
roses,

side

is

engraved "March

and
and

on the other are pictured swallows
symbols
of

the

return

of

spring.

Around
spy the
swallow

the pictured swallows are the words

which the Hungarian maidens say when they
first
!

swallow in the spring
I

:

" I
"
!

see a

Now

wash
of

my

freckles

This
gold,

charm

is

made

brass, silver, or

r
IN MEDICINE
*

149

according to the wealth of the owner.

All
it;
it-

through the month of March they wear
then they take
it

off

and carefully lay

away

in

a bed of dried rose leaves

until

the next spring

comes round.

^5°

CHAPTER
A
how

VIII

OUR DEBT TO THE SWALLOWS
CURIOUS old legend of Naples
tells

us
its

the poet Vergil once rid that city of
flies.

pest of

One day

Vergil,

who
Italy,

for cen-

turies after his death

was looked upon

as a

wizard by the folk of southern,

met the

young Marcellus as he was going fowling. Vergil asked him which of two blessings he a bird which would catch all would choose other birds, or a fly which would drive away Before deciding upon such an imall flies.

portant question,

Marcellus

consulted

the

Emperor Augustus, who, mindful of
need, promptly voted
in

the city's
fly.

favor of the

Thereupon Vergil made a huge bronze
and
place
set
it

fly,

high upon one of the gates of long as that
fly

Naples.
it

As

remained

in

banished every other insect from the

town.

152

OUR DEBT TO THE SWALLOWS
fly to rid

To-day we have no enchanted
equivalent in our birds?
not, therefore,

us
its

of our harmful insects, but have

we

not

And

should

we

have a wise

care for their preservation,

so that, like Naples of old,

we may

not one day be

tempted to seek the aid of

some enchanter
us from
suf-

to save

fering

and
birds are our

possible destruction ?

Our

most efficient allies in our campaigns against
those
vast

hordes

of

enemies,

the

insects.

By
and

warring against the

moths, caterpillars, worms,
lice

which feed upon our grains and

orchards,

and by devouring the seeds of

noxious weeds, they do what
is

man

unaided

unable to accomplish.

Seventy-six mil-


OUR DEBT TO THE SWALLOWS
lions of dollars a year
is

153

calculated to be

the

money value
if

of our birds to agriculture.
it

In the state of Illinois
that

has been estimated

the operations of birds were stopped

for a period of seven years, the entire state

would be covered with
of

insects to the

number

one

to a square inch. their habits of living in the air

Because of

and feeding upon the insects they catch on
the wing, the several species of the swallow

family

known

to us

form one of the most
of Agriculture, in a

serviceable divisions of this vast, protecting

army.

Our Department

recent paper, says:
"

From

the standpoint of the farmer and

the orchardist, perhaps no birds

more

useful

than the swallows

exist.

They have been

described as the light cavalry of the avian

army.

Specially adapted for flight and un-

excelled in aerial evolutions, they have few
rivals in the art of capturing insects in
air.

mid
ex-

They

eat nothing of value to

man

cept a few wasps and bugs, and in return for

;

154

OUR DEBT TO THE SWALLOWS

their services in destroying vast

numbers

of

noxious

insects,

ask only for harborage and
the fact that they cap-

protection.

It is to

ture their prey on the

wing

that their peis

cuUar value to the cotton grower

due.

Orioles do royal service in catching weevils

on the
ers,

bolls

;

and blackbirds, wrens,
to the

flycatch-

and others contribute

good work

but when swallows are migrating over the
cotton

fields,

they find the weevils flying in

the open and

wage

active

war against them.

As many
swallow."

as forty-seven adult weevils have
cliff

been found in the stomach of a single

We,

of this country, are not alone in rec-

ognizing the valuable service of swallows.

An
five

Italian journal states that

no

less

than

hundred insects make up the daily porone swallow, a
in

tion of

total of

about four,

thousand

one week

;

and that one swallow

can save in a day thirty-two hundred seeds
of grain and one thousand bunches of grapes.

In

addition

to

destroying

insect

pests,

OUR DEBT TO THE SWALLOWS
swallows
aid'

155

farmers by eating the seeds of
fields.

weeds which choke the grain

Ex-

amination of the contents of the stomachs
of swallows in our southern states has
that

shown

many species

of

them

eat,

on an average,
of weeds

more than twenty thousand seeds
in a day.
Still

noted — her

another asset of the swallow
assthetic

is

to be

value.

The

beauty,
of

the sociability,

and the graceful

flight

swallows are a keen source of pleasure to
every lover of nature, and go far to endear
the
little

birds to

all hearts.

As

a return for these varied services to
their

man, and as a provision for
ance, should not
their nesting

continu-

our birds be protected and
?

encouraged

In olden times

the snaring and killing of birds was such a
favorite

sport

that

elaborate

bird

decoys

were a carefully planned feature of pleasure
gardens, the remains of which

may

still

be

seen in the ruins of old European gardens.

But public sentiment

in

Europe

as well as

156

OUR DEBT TO THE SWALLOWS
in this
- '

country has so changed

that
"1

now,

instead

of

\^

snares to capture birds,
>

we

learn of the newest
artificial

devices in
attract

nests to

and house them.

In Ger-

many, low-growing nesting bushes
are

being planted, nesting boxes
placed

carefully

on

trees,

and

winter feeding houses arranged,
as polite invitations to the birds
to

is

come and settle near man. The presence of swallows so much desired around
in that country, that

houses

artificial

nests

of

clay

are
rent-

made and
free
city

offered

them

for

dwellings.

The
has

of

Hamburg
state,

a

Keeper of Birds appointed

by the
is

whose duty

it

to assist

in their preservation.

And we

of this country have our

many Audubon and

OUR DEBT TO THE SWALLOWS
other
in

157

societies

whose aim

it

is

to

help

the conservation of our

own

feathered

tribes.

Everywhere to-day not superstitious

fear

of evil omens, as in the days of old, prompts

kindly treatment of swallows, but a true appreciation
value.

of

their

practical

and

aesthetic
in

Although now we may not stand

fear of being stricken blind or

dumb

if

we

are tempted to injure a swallow or her nest,
is
it

not through regard for her and her

benefits to us that

we

refrain

?

Although

in

these days

we do

not greet the swallows

with spring songs, as the Athenian children
of long ago, nor preach
like Saint Francis,

sermons
not,

to them,

may we

with Saint

Guthlac, welcome the tree swallows and the
beautiful martins with a
little

rush basket or

a bird house carefully placed in our gardens ?

May we

not

make
?

a convenient opening in
built barns for

our modern tightly
the barn swallow
ful

our

friend,

And, perhaps more

help-

than

all,

guard them from the prowling

158

OUR DEBT TO THE SWALLOWS

cat

and wage war against

their worst

enemy,

the English sparrow?

We

may have

grave doubts to-day as to

the healing virtue of the ashes of the swallow's body, but, through a

knowledge of her
and superstitions
last
little
fly,

and of the strange
which cluster about
to realize the true
friend:
sits

beliefs
her,

we may at

come
bird

worth of our

that, like Vergil's

enchanted

she

continual guard over our forests, our
fields,

grain

our vineyards
lives.

yes,

over our

very homes and

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